By Barry J. Ewell
Age/birth year provided on the census is not primary source like a birth certificate or church record. It is one individual telling you the ages of the household. If I were to answer the census question today on the age of my family I would be close but not exact. I would start with how old my oldest daughter is and then subtract two years for each child. Now if you were to ask my wife the same question, she would have no problem giving you the age of every member of our family right down to the month. My point is simple, information provided the census taker varies from household to household and it’s also about the quality of the census taker hearing and writing down what they heard correctly.
I have found it important to use the census age information to calculate range of possible birth dates and years of the people listed the family unit I am researching. I have prepared a birth year reference chart for each census to help you identify an estimated birth year for each ancestor. See below for links to various census charts.
- Focus on location
- Search the original record
- Make a alphabet “sampler” from actual census entries
- Copy the way in which the census taker forms each letter