David STAMP, Ware, early 19th century




Estimating Date of Birth from Census Returns

December, 2010

Neil Stamp (neil.stamp.sr @t gmail.com) of Hull writes: I am writing in the hope that you can help me find the parents of David Stamp, he is my GGG grandfather. I have found lots of information by myself but everything stops (at least for me) with David. What I know is he was born in 1810/11 and was a malt maker at first and then a bricklayers labourer. He married Sara Wrenn (was Goodey) and had children, James and Sarah. The family lived at Baldock Street, Ware, according to the censuses I have.

Your problem could be because you recorded a precise date of birth for David Stamp of 1810/11 and assumed that it is correct. This may have arisen because you are using a family tree package to store your data which does not allow you to record uncertain and contradictory information.


Problems over people's age/date of birth are common - and your case provides a good demonstration of what can happen, and how bringing all the evidence together can help. You have already found the relevant census returns, and other information, so I will simply highlight the key facts in reviewing the information we have about David's likely date of birth.


His case is comparatively simple as he appears to be the only David Stamp married to Sarah in the Ware area. (In many cases there can be cousins of similar age living in the same area see Right Name, Wrong Body.) This means that we do not have to worry too much if the data is not a perfect fit.


In the censuses for 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 David and Sarah appear to be living in the same house in Baldock Street next to a yard variously called Mayfield Yard or Warboys Yard. Yard names in censuses often changed, as often they were no more than the name of the owner or principal tenant at the time. (See Locating Census addresses from Maps.) House numbering did not come in until later and you should not be confused by the census form number (7 in 1851, 9 in 1861 and 32 in 1871) By the 1881 census Sarah was a widow living in an alms house.


The following table gives the information we have for David and his wife's ages from the census and some other sources


  David Stamp Sarah  
Event Age Born Occupation Age Born Notes
Baptism 0 ?   0 1803 [familysearch]
Marriage 18+ By 1809   18+ By 1807 See below
1841 census 30 1806/11 Labourer 30 1806/11 See below
1851 Census 38 1812/13 Malt Maker (Labourer?) 44 1806/07  
1861 Census 53 1807/08 Bricklayer's Labourer 55 1805/06  
1871 Census 69   Bricklayer's Labourer 70 1800/01  
David's Death in 1872 66 1805/06       [FreeBMD]
1881 census       76 1804/05  
Sarah's Death in 1882       77 1804/05 [FreeBMD]


  • Bearing in mind the dates (early 19th century) and the fact that David was a labourer it is extremely unlikely that either David or Sarah could read or write. They would have been unable to fill in the census forms or to check details written down about them. They may even have been uncertain about their own ages.

  • All the variations in the dates of birth are consistent with an illiterate family. I suspect that, at least for the poorer, illiterate families, at least 10% of the census ages are guesses made by the person completing the form. (For instance in later censuses, where the exact age was recorded, more people have round number ages such as "50" rather than ages such as "49" or "51".)

  • The 1841 census recorded the "exact" age for children but adults were recorded in 5 year bands. The fact that David was recorded as 30 means that the person who filled in the form believed he was in the range 30-34.

  • In interpreting the 1841 census we need to know that William Wrenn married Sarah Goodey in 1825, and Job Wrenn (recorded as Job Stamp in the census) was born later the same year.   William died in 1826 and Sarah married David in 1827.

  • The marriages took place under the Hardwicke Marriage Act and it is reasonable to assume that the bride and groom were at least 21 if marriage was by Banns or at least 18 if the marriage was by licence (less likely). One needs to check the registers to find out if the marriage was by banns or by licence. However the rules may not have always been strictly adhered to.

  • On the evidence it is likely that David was born before about 1810 (from his marriage) but it would be reasonable to search for baptisms between 1800 and 1815.

A search of familysearch (which has recently introduced much newly digitised material) comes up with he following baptism at Ware.


David Stamp, son of David and Mary, baptised 24 Jan 1808

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

December 2010   Page created