Act your age, not your shoe size!.


baby with adult shoes

You may have read news reports about Emile Ratelband, back in November/December 2018. Mr. Ratelband, aged 69, was applying to have his age legally changed to 49, as he felt this more accurately reflected his age.

The Dutch court rejected his request, but it put in my mind the numerous examples I’ve seen of others doing just what Mr. Ratelband failed to do.

The important thing to always remember when dealing with historic documents and the ages recorded, is that there can be wide variations between ages supplied.

Also, bear in mind, there were no checks and balances on what information was given, say to a census enumerator. If someone tells you they’re 50, then that’s what will go on the form, although one would like to think that the enumerator would make some adjudication on the person stood before them.

The most honest recording of same I’ve seen can be seen below:

historic documents and the ages recorded


The above also illustrates another point, that people simply weren’t certain of their age and provided ‘ball park’ figures, which could be out by a number of years.

So – when conducting searches, don’t be too hasty to rule out a particular record purely based on the age being incorrect.

By Stephen Peirce

Stephen Peirce

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