Thursday, September 23, 2010
The Lower DelMarVa Genealogical Society (LDGS) September meeting
Last night I attended the Lower DelMarVa Genealogical Society (LDGS) meeting. Aaron Horner, a research assistant from the Nabb Center in Salisbury, spoke on ways to determine the age of an ancestor if birth records are not available. The main time period he focused on was from 1580 to 1775. During that time period the main record of births were church records. Many of those records have been lost so other records must be examined to estimate the age of a person.
In Maryland there were tax lists. These tax list recorded all white males over 16, all slaves, and some widows who were Head of households. The age was not recorded on the tax list but it shows the person on the tax list was at least 16 years old and it is grouped by household. You can see when a new name appeared on the tax roll that they must have just arrived in the area or just turned 16. Likewise when they were dropped from the tax record they left the area, dropped dead, or moved out of a household to start their own household. From that you can go to other records.
Land Commission records - when there were disputes over land boundaries (as you know Delmarva has no stone so they used trees to mark land boundaries and the trees would died over time so the boundary would become disputed) dispositions would be taken by the different parties. In the disposition the person's age would be recorded.
Orphan records - When orphans would be assigned a guardian they would have their age recorded.
Court determination of age - when indentured whites, free blacks or slaves were assigned to a master in some cases they did not know their age so a court had to determine an age. This was for a number of purposes, one was so the master could be taxed if the person was over 16 years old. Another reason for age determination was so a set time period existed until that child would be set free from his indenture at age 21. A number of methods were used beside height and weight such as the condition of the teeth and outward signs of puberty.
Wills - are also a good source as frequently the age of the people listed in the will can be determined by the way they are mentioned in the will.
All of this is, of course, just an approximation of the birthyear of an individual.
It happens that on October 2nd at the Delaware Archives there is a similar talk called "Vital Records: Beyond Births, marriages, & Deaths.
The LDGS meetings are held at 7 PM the third Wednesday night each month at the LDGS library downtown Salisbury. Next meeting is on October 27th.