Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's In A Date?

When doing genealogy it is so so so important to pay attention to dates. When you search for somebody, the more you know the better your chances are of finding the right person. I can't think of any country in the world where children are recruited by the government to fight in wars, yet I see it all the time. Five year olds listed as being in this War or that. While fixing broken links tonight I found this little tid-bit, he is listed as a Revolutionary War Solider.

Example: William Alexander was born 1752 North Carolina Died 5 or 6 Jan 1821. Married in 1789 to Margaret Cull. Children: William Jr. married Elizabeth Parks.

Source: Page 36, 37, Roster of Soldiers and Patriots of the American Revolution Buried in Indiana, 1938.

What do you suppose could have happened here. Several things come to mind.
  • Our date of 1752 could have been his father or even his grandfather. When you think about it, 18 - 35 is the date range for military service. At least it was in that time frame, without your momma having to sign for you to get in. Still, it wasn't 5 years old.  
  • That is also the time frame for birthing, within 5 years in either direction. Having babies wasn't easy back then. The doctors came to your home, more likely you had a mid-wife or you just sucked it up and delivered that baby with the help of family and friends. Written documents of the time were very difficult to read and a lot of numbers and letters looked a lot alike. A five could be an 3 or and 8. It could even be a 6. 
  • Most first marriages occur somewhere between the ages of 12 and 15 during that period of time. For heavens sake, life expectancy was what? Maybe 40 if you were real healthy. Modern medicine wasn't even heard of really back then. During the Revolutionary War, if you got shot by a cannon ball, they used Lavender as a pain killer. If that cannon ball hit you in the mid-section, it was a long agonizing death. 
What we have here is a clue however and gives you a place to look. Take those clues wherever you find them, welcome them, use them and always, always, consider the time frame and life of the era.