Guessing a Date

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How to Guess Where to Start
Guessing a Date

How should I estimate dates when documenting an event in an ancestor's life?.

First, use the dates you already know as a guide. This can help guide your search for additional records.

Use the following guidelines:.

  • If possible, find each family member in all the available censuses, registrations, and other records during their lifetimes. This may help narrow the number of years when certain events may have happened.
  • When you are trying to find the next generation back (i.e. your grandfather's father or further), It may be good to allow a 20 to 40 year window prior to the last known ancestors birth. This can be narrowed down if you know the birth dates of several children in the family.
  • Calculate approximate birth years from their age on the census or other documents. See
  • It has been noted that in America and northern Europe men usually married at about age 25, women at about age 21. However, this is only an average with widespread variation, and is different for different places. While this may be helpful when looking for birth records, recording a birth date of about 21 or 25 years before a marriage as fact on community trees such as FamilySearch Family Tree often causes problems with mis-identification. If you have a marriage date, record that, but don't record a birth date based on a known marriage date unless there is an associated age listed at the time of marriage.
  • On average, the first child is born one year after the parent’s marriage. Subsequent children are usually born about every two years.
  • If you know when each child in the family was born, estimate the marriage date as about 1 year before the birth of the first child. This is usually fairly accurate, but not unless a thorough search for all children has been conducted
  • Generally, brothers and sisters who die of old age are most likely to die at roughly the same age. This may be helpful when looking for death records, however, it is better not to record such an average date as fact, especially on community trees such as FamilySearch Family Tree.

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