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1921 Censuses

Discussion in 'Meeting my 'lost cousin'' started by JohnR65, Oct 14, 2023.

  1. JohnR65

    JohnR65 LostCousins Star

    Does anyone actually believe the ages recorded on these censuses?
  2. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Superstar

    When it's the only information you have, you have to use it. But until you can confirm it with other records, there would have to be the chance that they have been dishonest.

    But really, for the majority of census records I have looked at, there hasn't been a big discrepancy in the ages. There have only been a few instances were the individual is fragrantly lying on the record.
  3. JohnR65

    JohnR65 LostCousins Star

    Yes I find it difficult to know but the 1939 Register gives more exact dates mostly.
  4. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Megastar

    With records like censuses and bmd registrations, the information within is only ever going to be as good as the person providing it. People may have deliberately given incorrect or misleading information, but many people also made honest mistakes, providing what they believed to be true.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Ages in years and months can be tricky to calculate, particularly if the individual had yet to celebrate their birthday, and the delay in taking the census may also have caused confusion, since the forms showed the original April date (it still causes confusion for some family historians). There was also the question of whether to always round the number of months down, or whether to round it up if that was closer.

    Nevertheless, my experience is that the ages in 1921 are the most accurate of any of the published censuses - though the 1939 Register is generally more reliable.
  6. Helen7

    Helen7 LostCousins Superstar

    I have generally found the ages in the 1921 census to be pretty accurate. The only one I can recall that was wrong was my husband's grandmother whose age is given as 14 yrs 3 months when she was actually still 13. I think this was probably because she was working as a live-in domestic servant when she should have been at school!

    I have found various instances where the birthdate in the 1939 register has been wrong - usually the wrong year - but I agree generally more reliable than pre-1921 censuses.
  7. JohnR65

    JohnR65 LostCousins Star

    It seems we mostly all agree that the 1939 Register records more accurate dobs.
  8. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    That's not a fair comparison since the published UK censuses don't record dates of birth, they show ages. A better comparison for the 1939 Register dates of birth would be birth register and baptism registers entries, and death register entries (after the change from age to dob).

    Most people are better at remembering when they were born than how old they are, since their birthdate doesn't change - which means that arithmetical errors can creep in. However, the person who completed the form could well have the opposite problem when entering other members of the household who were not present. They would most probably know the day and month when their spouse or child celebrated their birthday, and they might well know how old they were last birthday - but if they got the calculation wrong, the year of birth would be out.

    In some cases it might be possible to deduce which family member completed the household schedule in 1939!
  9. Katie Bee

    Katie Bee LostCousins Member

    In the 1939 Register my father's cousin was staying with my parents, and his birthday was in December as was my mother's.
    The month and years are correct in the Register, but the days have been transposed.
    I do not know if the error was made by the family member, I assume my father, who completed the schedule or not.
  10. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I suspect the error was made by the enumerator when he was copying the entries into the register - you see similar things in the censuses with ages and birthplaces sometimes being switched. The fact that both birthdays were in December makes it more likely that the numbers were inadvertently switched during the transcription process.

    I suspect that transcription errors were more likely towards the end of the register, as the enumerator tired of the mindless task, but it isn't something I've ever investigated. Birthdates weren't shown on identity cards so errors like this wouldn't be picked up until NHS cards were issued, and even then only if the individuals were sufficiently concerned to point out the error.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  11. JohnR65

    JohnR65 LostCousins Star

    Yes well I think I've had enough of this topic now!

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