11 November 2013

How Old Did I Say I Was and Why Does the Researcher Care?

Genealogists often lament the inconsistencies in genealogical records.

This document provides a slightly different spin on those variations in ages that all researchers encounter in records at one time or another.

William Henry Sartorius of the Alberta province in Canada writes a letter to the Department of Resources and Development in 1951.

Sartorius had filed paperwork for a homestead claim in 1904, a claim which was successfully completed. In this letter he is asking to be told what age he used when he applied for the homestead.

This scan was made from a copy of Sartorius' claim. The Provincial Archives of Alberta has microfilmed copies of these records and there is more information about them on the Alberta Genealogical Society's website.


Letters like this tend to make one wonder about any age a person provides in a record and indicates the need to view any individual age with some healthy skepticism.

For me though, there is a bigger question:

Why?

What was happening in Sartorius' life to make him need to know what age he had given on the 1904 homestead application? Certainly he was not asking this question out of idle curiosity. I may never know what prompted the letter, but the questions:

  • what prompted this record?
  • why was this record created?
  • why at that point in time?
Are always ones that should be asked. Sometimes the answer to all three is pretty much the same--sometimes it is not.


Note: Sartorius is a brother to Frederick (Sartorius) Janssen (1865 Adams County, Illinois-1913 Hancock County, Illinois), my great-great-grandmother.

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