[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Lying about age on ship's passenger list

gpvjem gpvjem at sasktel.net
Wed Nov 29 06:15:54 PST 2006

     I have formed an opinion after working with 25 years of church records from the same parish in Poland, that the older people (born in the 1700s and very early 1800s particularly) may have forgotten the year of their birth or weren't too concerned about it..  I don't think they had calendars at hand and many did not have the ability to read or write or do simple calculations. Discrepancies of several years are not uncommon at all.
    I notice a trend starting about the 1850s that recorded ages in various events, such as marriages and deaths, relative to the recorded birth date, appear to be more accurate, but not in all cases.
    Unless a birth record can be found, one must be very careful in accepting a year of birth as being correct.  I have 4 birth dates for my maternal grandmother and no birth record!
    I would be interested to read other comments.

John Marsch


  Was there any advantage for an adult to lie about their age on a ship's
  passenger list?  For a child, I can see wanting to get a lower fare.  But
  what point would there be for someone who's 31 to say they're 25?  Or for
  someone 58 to say they're 47?

  I think I finally found my great-grandmother - I think she traveled to
  America with her 2 married sisters and used one of the in-law's names on the
  passenger list.  The names all match...the date they arrived in the U.S.
  matches when they said they came.  But every single one of the ages is off -
  often drastically!  (i.e. not a date rounding thing.)

  Has anyone else seen this?

  Carolyn Schott

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