Archiver > IRISH-IN-CHICAGO > 2005-03 > 1109889477

From: Jim & Sharon Kavanagh <>
Subject: Re: [Irish in Chicago] Finding Irish Parish records in Ireland
Date: Thu, 03 Mar 2005 14:37:57 -0800
References: <>
In-Reply-To: <>

Well, this discussion really helps me with our Irish emigrant whose records
show 5 different dates of birth: 1821 on 1900 Chicago Census, 1828 on Chgo
death cert, 1832 on IL Civil War Muster, 1834 for his possible Hacketstown,
Co.Carlow baptism and 1840 on the 1880 Chicago Census.

All the ideas for possible intentional white lies and all the rationale for
mistakes by Census takers and informants are music to my ears. As to trying
to be politically correct (Yes, I too belong to lists where folks have
gotten offended, and I understand why sometimes) but - let's just try for
truth and accuracy.

Thanks, Dan.

At 09:55 AM 3/3/2005 -0800, you wrote:
>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
>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 common.
>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
>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
>On Wednesday, March 2, 2005, at 03:26 PM, Jim & Sharon Kavanagh wrote:
>>Dan, Would you please comment on Irish giving varying birth dates on
>>different documents. I would be most interested in hearing of your
>>experience of this.
>>At 02:43 PM 3/2/2005 -0800, you wrote:
>>>This is so very true. The naming traditions, customs, food, and even the
>>>variations in birth dates on different documents is common for both.
>>>Dan Hogan

This thread: