Archiver > IRISH-IN-CHICAGO > 2005-03 > 1109878269

Subject: Re: Finding Irish Parish records in Ireland
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2005 14:31:09 EST


I had heard the reason why the civil birth date is later than the actual
date was because I heavy fine was charged if the birth was not reported in a
timely manner. My father's correct birth date was November 18, 1902. His civil
birth date was Feb 10, 1903. I can still hear my father telling me "I always
thought I was born in November but my birth record states I was born in
February". Well, Dad, you know now you were correct. My father died in 1981.

As to death certificate info, usually only the deceased knows the correct
info. Although I remember an incident when my brother-in-law died, we (six of us
and my mother-in-law) did not notice that my mother-in-law's name was
missing from the information sheet.

Nora Hopkins FitzGerald
Searching for Fahey/Hogan/Keane/Hopkins in Chicago from Mayo


In a message dated 3/3/2005 1:38:33 PM Eastern Standard Time
(mailto:) writes:

I knew someone would call me on this. I tried to be "politically
correct", but now in order to give the proper explanation, I may
insult/offend some people.
So far this discussion we have had on this list has been not only very
informative, but cordial with no one getting upset. I say this because
on other lists, it gets very heated and people get easily offended,
become picky with words and meanings, and sometimes get nasty to the
point that the person in charge of the list has to put a stop to it.
Therefore, that being said, what I meant by varying birth dates on
documents, which is quite common and almost standard in not only Irish,
but Hispanic research as well is, plain and simple, our ancestors lied
about their ages.
This subject of lying to the civil authorities, census takers, clerks,
etc. is very prevalent in Irish research, and after many finally
admitted to this on other rootsweb lists in the past, seems to be quite
It is pretty much a rule of thumb that dates on civil records are not
to be trusted and one must search within a 10 year or so spread of the
dates given.
Having said this, the question is why they lied. This is more
complicated and must be viewed in cultural/historical terms.
Speaking from my own experience and upbringing, my mother is Hispanic
and my father 100% Irish, I was told never to give my real age to
anyone that asked, that is was impolite to ask and therefore none of
their business. All my hispanic relatives are the same way.
When I first started looking for my Irish relatives, I found many
varying dates on all civil records. I and many suspected that this was
mainly due to inaccurate recording, but then I began to read and hear
about this aspect of purposely giving the wrong birth dates from other
researchers. I too suspected as such and when I asked my elderly aunts,
at first they were apprehensive, but finally admitted that our
ancestors lied about their ages and that it was quite common.
The reasons are varied, but according to my aunts, they lied because
they had life insurance policies and did not want the companies to find
out. Therefore they had to alter all civil records to make them appear
younger. My Irish immigrant ancestor's death certificate says born
1868, census records state anywhere from 1865-1870, civil marriage
document states 1861, ship passenger list states 1862. Parish baptism,
which took me 6 years to find, says 1859!
I and many others also theorize this aspect was also a measure of
defiance toward civil authorities, remember where these people came
from the government was the enemy (England, Spain, ect)
This is why parish records are so valuable and arguably the best source
of info, because while our ancestors thought nothing of giving false
info to civil authorities, they would not dare lie to their priest? If
so, they may, as many Irish coroner's records state, get a "Visitation
from God".
Dan Hogan

This thread: