How to Figure Dates from Tombstones

Courtesy of Jane Freese
Originally published in the Sun City Genealogist, Vol. IV, No. 2 (Summer 1983)


Let us say you have found the tombstone of an ancestor, and on that stone you find the date of his death and his age at death. You want to determine the date of his birth. He died April 16, 1904.

                                    1904 (year)    4 (months)    16 (days)
he was aged:                 61 (years)   1 (month)     10 (days)
                                    ________________________________
                                    1843                3                      6                  (March 6, 1843)

 

But, too often it is more complicated than that. He died April 16, 1904.

                                    1904 (year)    4 (months)    16 (days)
he was aged:                 83 (years)   8 (months)    21 (days)
                                   

What you do is borrow 30 days from April for a total of 46 days -- and borrow 12 months from 1904 for a total of 15 months, having already borrowed a month. So you get:

                                    1904 (year)    4 (months)    16 (days)
                                         -1 (year) +12 (months)
                                                         -  1 (month)    +30 days
                                    _________________________________
                                    1903 (year)   15 (months)     46 (days)
he was aged:                 83 (years)   8 (months)     21 (days)
                                    _________________________________
he was born:               1820 (year)    7 (months)     25 (days)        (July 25, 1820)

 

To check this, say he was born July 25, 1820. He lived to the age of 83 years, 8 months and 21 days. Put everything back that you have borrowed:

                                     1820 (year)         7 (months)    25 (days)
                                       +83 (years)       8 (months)    21 (days)
                                    ___________________________________
                                     1903 (year)        15 (months)    46 (days)
                                         +1 (year)       +1 (month)     -30 (days)
                                                                -12(months)
                                    ___________________________________
                                      1904 (year)          4 (months)    16 (days)

********************************************************************************

Another Method  -  the 8870 FORMULA

When the age is given ion a tombstone or in an obituary, use the formula of 8870 to determine the date of birth:

Died May 6, 1889                       18890506
Aged 71y7m9d                              -710709
                                     
               ___________  
                                                       18179797
                                                          -    8870  
                                                     ___________
 Born September 27, 1817           18170927       


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