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Tuesday's Tip - Estimating Dates (Intermediate)

TT - Estimating Dates

Tuesday's Tips provide brief how-to's to help you learn to use the Legacy Family Tree software with new tricks and techniques.

Estimating Dates (Intermediate)

When you enter a person in Legacy it is common to not know all of their vital dates. Estimating the dates that you don't have can be helpful. 

Legacy's Research Guidance tool will work to your advantage if you have these estimated dates entered. It is possible that you might miss something if you are way off but you can always go in and make adjustments if needed. For more information about the Research Guidance tool please see Legacy 101 - Help with Your Research: Hints, Research Guidance, Internet Searches and Research Guidance and the To-Do List.

But even if you don't use this tool, estimating dates will help you narrow down when and where you should be looking for records. In Legacy you can enter an estimated date like this:

Est 1840
Estimated 1840 

Even though you don't see Est as a prefix in Options > Customize > Dates > Option 5.7 Legacy DOES recognize this as a legitimate date prefix.

There are a few tricks to estimating dates. These are just guidelines! You will immediately see that they don't hold true in all situations but these do give you a starting point and as more information comes in you can fine tune your estimates. The rules for legal documents can vary from state to state and from time period to time period but the ones listed are the most common. Also, these "rules" are more valid before about 1950.

  • You can estimate that a couple married when the husband was 21 and the wife was 18 (first marriage)
  • Second marriages for males were commonly within 2 years of the death of the previous spouse (a new wife was needed to care for the children)
  • You can estimate that a couple married one year before their first known child was born
  • Mothers don't die until after the birth of their youngest known child. Father's can die within 9 months before the birth of their youngest known child
  • Full term pregnancies are 38-42 weeks
  • Premature infants 34 weeks or less normally did not survive
  • Children are born an average of two years apart
  • Mothers do not normally give birth after about age 46
  • You can assume a person died after he is mentioned on a document (census, surviving family in an obituary, witness on a legal document, etc.)
  • You can assume a person was at least 21 years of age when named as a guardian, listed on a voter roll, listed as an executor/executrix to a will, or witnessed a legal document
  • A male was at least 21 to pay the poll tax
  • A person was at least 21 to own property (land)
  • A person had either died OR was at least 50 when he drops off of the tax rolls 
  • You can estimate that a male is at least 16 year old in military records
  • A child who was allowed to choose his own guardian was between the age of 14 and 21
  • A person who died between the date he signed his will and the date that the will was proved (probated)

Another great trick is to use the date ranges on the 1800-1840 censuses to narrow down a person's date of birth. The 1790 is not as helpful but don't discount it completely. The ranges are different from year to year so you can compare them to knock out a few years. You can also do this with the later censuses using the OFFICIAL census date as your baseline to calculate when a person was born based on their age. For more information on that, please read William Dollarhide's article, The Census Day.

The trick is to use multiple bits of information to narrow down the dates. Here is a tool from The Golden Egg Genealogist that will help you do just that. You can download the Date Narrowing Calculator (for Excel) for free after signing up for her blog.

Another thing to remember is that you can also "estimate" locations to go along with those dates. If a person is living in Columbia County, GA as a 2 year old in 1850, is living in Columbia County as a 12 year old in 1860, is living in Columbia County as a 22 year old in 1870, and is living in Columbia County as a 32 year old in 1880, chances are he was born in Columbia County and he married in Columbia County. One thing to note, if the husband and the wife were from two different counties it is more common for them to have married in the wife's home county and not the husband's.

I hope this information will help you estimate your dates for your blank vital events so you can narrow down when and where to look for records that will give you more definitive information.


Find tech tips every day in the Facebook Legacy User Group. The group is free and is available to anyone with a Facebook account.

For video tech tips check out the Legacy Quick Tips page.  These short videos will make it easy for you to learn all sort of fun and interesting ways to look at your genealogy research.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.


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This is especially true when you have more than one person in your data with the same name, e.g. Thomas, John, Elizabeth, Mary.

I have an early ancestor who shows as being born in Virginia about 1730 on several data sets on the internet. However, the births of his first born children did not fit this date. I traveled to the county seat of the county in which he had operated in and searched a genealogy library. This is what I found: He was born in Wales about 1710 and was next found acquiring land in the Virginia Colony from a land Baron starting in 1730. One of his properties was surveyed by a young George Washington. A few years later, he is listed as a 'Planter". This new data fell into place and made chronological sense. His birth date of about 1730 was in error. A better entry (of earlier data) would have been born before 1730, birthplace unknown.

It pays to visit libraries in counties where your ancestors have resided. You may find data that is not widely posted on the internet, or misinterpreted.

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