16 Ideas to Uncover Birth, Marriage or Death Dates

So beyond the birth, marriage and death (BMD) certificates what are other ways you can unearth or at minimum calculate such dates? Here’s a list to help you out BUT remember they may not always be accurate! It is therefore important to, where possible, cross check with two to three other sources to validate the date or close to date of your ancestors.

1.Census Records.

Ages are listed against each household member. Depending on the census source (ie. country) there may be other factors that can assist in calculating BMD dates. For example in the 1911 Irish census, married couples are asked to identify how many years they have been married. So using your “genealogy math” you can calculate back their marriage date. (Additional note - in absence of any birth dates in your initial research and with ancestors born in the early 20th century or earlier use a default of twenty years of age at least for the female)


Often gravestones will carry the age of the deceased or even better, the birth year and death year.


For those that hold family bibles check for dates that may provide you with information.


Was your ancestor in the military? This could be a great way to identify, or even confirm BMD dates.


Ideally your ancestors or a mindful family member has included dates on old photographs. In absence of this information you may be able to discern some clues about ages of people in the photo based on who they are with, where they are - and most importantly what they are wearing.


Do explore newspapers for the timeframe or name(s) you are researching. There could be a marriage banns, event or obituary that could be helpful to you.


Did one or more of your ancestors travel via ship? Ages are included on these manifests - and - may be also worth noting if they are single or married. As this could be a good way to cross check against other records and information as to when they may have got married.


Was your ancestor a victim or a perpetrator of a misdemeanor (ie petty court) or a greater court case? It may be worthwhile exploring name(s) to see if they appear - as you could gain some valuable BMD information.


This will vary according to the area you are researching but if school records are available do explore what information you may be able to glean.

10. WILL

Did your ancestor have a will? While it is unlikely there would be specific ages noted it is possible that clues to support your research may be available such as the date of death or whether a family member has a changed status (eg. a sister whose surname has changed through marriage).


Was there a probate registered against your ancestor? This could list information of value including any additional family members such as a spouse or children that would give you a “time stamp” as to where they were at the time of the deceased.


While the actual age of an individual is not listed a change in ownership could indicate a changed status eg. a transfer of property to a son upon a father’s death. Moreover these records are dated so you can do some “genealogy math” and calculate what year and what age your ancestors may have been.

13. WAR REGISTRY of 1939

Might you have an ancestor that was based in England or Wales before the outbreak of World War II? Within this register dates of birth and marital status were included.


You may be thinking recipe books? Well in some families, recipe books (or receipt books as they were often referred to in the past) were sometimes handed down from generation to generation - and - in some cases names were listed at each generational level. So while there could be a record of individuals’ names the date of the recipe book publication, the nature of recipes presented and how many generations are listed could be a resource to consider.


Depending on the area being researched, electoral records could provide additional reference to determine BMD dates.


Was your ancestor in prison at all? The good part of if so, is that records can be quite fruitful and key vital information captured.

Have you come across any other good sources to uncover BMD (birth, marriage or death records)? Do share here and the list can be updated!

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