Do you ever forget how old you are? I cannot seem to remember my age. I mean, I know how old I am, give or take a year. Usually if someone asks my age, I take a minute to calculate it. Does age matter? Turning 10 years old matters–your first year of double digits! Turning 13 years old matters–your first official year as a teen. At 16 years old, many are allowed to date–definitely an age that matters to a 16 year old. And 18 years old matters–adulthood! But after, say, 25 years old, what does it matter?
Young people often want to be older. And older people often want to be younger. Will Rogers is quoted as saying “Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.”
In family history, age can be very important. When I search Ancestry.com for Mary Smith born in Massachusetts in 1700, over 60,000 records were identified. Identifying your ancestor might come down to knowing their age, especially if you don’t know their exact birth date.
Annie’s birth date is a little hard to pin down.
As mentioned in the previous post, she is shown in the 1880 census as being 2 years old. Other records show the following:
- Marriage certificate shows age 21 in April 1895
- 1900 census shows age as 24
- 1910 census shows age as 33
- 1920 census shows age as 40
- 1930 census shows age as 54
- 1940 census shows age as 57
- Social Security Death Index shows birthday of 18 January 1877
- Funeral program shows birth date of 18 January 1875
- Headstone says born 1876
So from 1880-1895, which is 15 years, her age changed 19 years. From 1895 to 1900, which is five years, her age changed 3 years. From 1900 to 1910, her age changed 9 years, which is reasonable depending on when the census was taken. Then from 1910 to 1920, her age changed 7 years. From 1920 to 1930, her age changed 14 years. From 1930 to 1940, her age changed 3 years. Something’s fishy here!
I feel like the 1880 census, with her age listed at 2 years old, is probably the most reliable. If we use the Social Security Death Index birthday, she would have been 3 years old at the 1880 census. That’s pretty close. In 1895, the year she married, she would have been 17 or 18 years old and probably would have needed parental permission to marry, like some of her sisters who married at that age. My guess is that, for some reason or another, she couldn’t get that permission and did what was required to get married–change her age.
Of course, for the censuses, whoever gave information to the census taker could have simply given the wrong information. But I can’t help think that maybe Annie was a little like myself–a person who forgets her age.
What does age matter anyway?