The game of chance in picking the correct birth date

Dates are so important in genealogy. The wrong date leads into messes on the family tree. But when is it possible to know the correct date anyway?

My father bragged he shared his birthday with his father. Then I saw a picture of my grandfather’s gravestone in southern Russia. The birth date was off by 10 days from my father’s birthday. Luckily, I have my grandfather’s birth record to confirm his actual birth date.

However since my grandfather was born in the late 1800s, he technically cannot have the same birthday as my father. The Julian calendar was in use when my grandfather was born and the Gregorian calendar was in place when my father was born in Russia.

My grandfather apparently didn’t care for the calendar change because he should have known he and my father’s birthdays were really 12 days apart.

Russia stopped using the Julian calendar on Jan. 31, 1918, much later than the fall 1867 change in the USA. See this website to convert old dates to the new ones.

The birth dates for  my paternal grandmother’s brothers can’t be explained by the calendar change. One grand uncle’s birth is noted on April 6, 1896 in church records when all his immigration records state his birth date as June 4, 1896.

Another grand uncle listed his birth date from the old calendar on immigration records but celebrated his birthday on the new calendar date.

Then his oldest brother’s birth date from church records is July 27, 1891. Grand Uncle Nick decided to use July 29, 1891 as his birth date for his immigration records.

The wife who came with him to the USA was 40 years younger than him on immigration records. She married him so she could immigrate to the USA and marry my grand uncle’s nephew. Anyone who didn’t know the family story would think her birth date was a major mistake.

Another grand uncle’s wife made herself 10 years younger on immigration records to make it easier for immigration. She feared being rejected for immigration as an older woman. This caused quite the mess when she wanted to collect Social Security.

So this all shows never quickly eliminate information based on an incorrect date. In many immigrants’ circumstances learning the new country’s language was difficult and that led to random dates on immigration records.

I feel lucky to have my grand uncles’ birth records from Ukraine to have their actual birth dates. My grand uncles’ methods for declaring their birth dates are great mysteries.

2 thoughts on “The game of chance in picking the correct birth date

  1. Tatiana Podmore

    Thanks, AND names are important. I have a Russian great uncle and I knew he had moved to USA in 1923 (found his shipping records) and that he married 1924 and then died in a building accident the same year. By sheer determination I tracked a coroners report where his name is Boboff instead of Popoff but no trace of marriage or death certificate. Still searching using variations of spelling. Any sugegstions welcome

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