Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Question of Age

This edition’s topic for the Carnival of Genealogy is age. I’ve been sitting here staring at my Family Tree Maker software, willing it to spit out the ancestor who wins in the longevity department. Sadly, I can no more bend the program to my will than I can use my mental powers to de-calorie Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. (And the world is a much sadder place for my failure.)

So, I had settled on telling you about my great great grandfather John R. Hoy, who if he did not win the longevity award, came darn close, as he was 99 years, 8 months and 30 days old when he died.

Other close but no cigar candidates for the award were my maternal grandmother, Katie Lynch Hoy, who lived to be 91 years, 5 months and 21 days old, and my paternal great grandfather, Leo Schrader who was 91 years and 9 days at the time of his death. The good news for me is that I have some lengthy-life genes swirling around in my genetic stew.

However, as I was going through my tons of information, I came across the marriage certificate of my paternal grandparents, Walter Sloan and Anna Schrader, and it reminded me of another type of age issue which I already knew about but had forgotten.

On June 20, 1930, my grandmother swore before the probate officer that as of January 16, 1930 she was 21 years of age and that her occupation was “seamstress.” My grandfather swore a similar oath – that he was 22 years of age on March 28, 1930 and that his occupation was “farming.” This was fine, except that BOTH of my grandparents had lied!

To be fair, in grandpa’s case, he probably didn’t know his actual birth date. Here, in the marriage license application, he gave it as March 28, 1908. On his death certificate, his birth date is listed as January 30, 1909. His actual date of birth was July 23, 1908. Why are there discrepancies?

Grandpa’s mother died when he was not quite three. His father, Elmer, took Walter and his baby brother George to Lucas County, Ohio where Elmer’s brother Lawson lived. Three years later, Elmer himself was dead. There was nobody left to remember a little boy’s exact birthday.

Six years later, at the age of 10, Grandpa shows up as the adopted son of William and Nettie Sloan in Clyde, Ohio. It’s sad to think that I know Grandpa’s exact birth date but he did not.

Grandma’s lie, on the other hand, is down right puzzling. I had always assumed she did it so she would not need parental consent. But Anna was 19, and while not the 21 she claimed, it seems certain she would not have needed her parents to sign for her. As far as I can tell, she would have only needed this consent if she were below the age of 18. So why fib?

If you knew my grandmother, you’d know she was always a sharp cookie, so there’s no doubt she knew how old she was. Did the clerk, misunderstand? Was she showing some kind of sympathetic support to my grandfather – since his correct date could not be recorded than neither would hers? The answer is I don’t know, but I would love to have been a little mouse sitting in the corner and listening to their answers that day.

Until Next Time – Happy Ancestral Digging!

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