Guessing a Date
How should I estimate dates when documenting an event in an ancestor's life?
Use the following guidelines:
- Use the dates you already know to help narrow your search for additional records.
- When possible, find each family member in all available records such as birth, marriage, and death, censuses, court, military, and other events recorded during their lifetime. 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), and the birth dates of most of the children are not known, allow for a 20 to 40-year window prior to the youngest child’s birth.
- Calculate approximate birth years from the age found on the censuses or other documents. See Skillbuilding: Date Calculations.
- It has been noted that in America and northern Europe men usually married around the age of 25, and women around the age of 21. However, this is only an average with widespread variation from place to place.
- On average, the first child was born within one year of the parent’s marriage. Subsequent children were usually born about two years apart.
- If you know when each child in the family was born, estimate the marriage date to approximately 1 year before the birth of the first child. This is usually a fairly accurate guess, however, be sure you made a thorough search for all children born to that family.
- Generally, brothers and sisters who died of old age were 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.