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Lying about age when admitted to workhouse

(43 Posts)
saffyBoo Mon 12-Nov-18 16:37:06

Is there any reason why a women would lie about her age on workhouse admittance records? My great grandmother seems to appear from nowhere on workhouse admittance records saying she was a good few years younger than she was. The same date is on her discharge paperwork and the census later that year. Basically I can't find any other documentation for her apart from later down the line electrol rolls and a marriage certificate from much much later on. Everyone in the family always spoke about how amazing it was she lived untill 90-somthing but that wouldn't add up if you go by the date of birth on her workhouse docs. I'm really confused why she would have lied about her age

Windgate Mon 12-Nov-18 17:13:36

I think a lot depends on how old she actually was and what age she claimed to be when admitted to the workhouse.

ArnoldBee Mon 12-Nov-18 17:16:45

Lots of reasons. Wanted to attract a new husband? Was the work house segregated by age? Was there specific criteria for the work house? Who provided the information? Have you got the right person?

whydoineedanickname Mon 12-Nov-18 17:21:02

Could that be her real age and she lied later on making herself older?

RedFin Mon 12-Nov-18 17:21:04

Would it have made a difference between her being sent to the child/adult section? Was there another family member she wanted to be kept with? Did she maybe just not know her age and guess? Was it to do with keeping a sibling baby by pretending it was her own?

Can you tell us the year she went in, the age she said she was and the age you think she was?

Iputthescrewinthetuna Mon 12-Nov-18 17:24:13

I think maybe PP is right and perhaps wanted to be put in to the same workhouse age group as a sibling.

wibblywobblyfish Mon 12-Nov-18 17:35:09

Have you checked he GRO index for her actual year / quarter of her birth? It's very normal for censuses to be a couple of years out age wise

yamadori Mon 12-Nov-18 18:23:47

You have her marriage certificate, and so you have her father's name and occupation, (and names of witnesses who are possibly relatives also). Have you searched for her father on the census year that you found her, or the previous one? Does it say whether he was deceased on the marriage certificate?

Have you looked for other people with the same surname admitted to the workhouse around the same date she was? Unless it is a very common name, you might find a few leads to follow.

Think laterally and see if you can work out whether the surname might have had different spellings. A lot of people couldn't spell their own surname so couldn't check that it was right, and registrars, officials etc were apt to spell it the way they heard it. Take account of regional accents and pronunciation also.

saffyBoo Mon 12-Nov-18 20:42:26

Just to let anyone know who was kind enough to reply I am just composing a reply with all the relevant info etc xxxx

TryingToSayRightThing Mon 12-Nov-18 20:44:34

Afraid I don't know but would like to follow as this is an interesting thread xx

saffyBoo Mon 12-Nov-18 22:51:27

I probably should have given more details in my previous post I wrote but i quickly wrote it on the school run.

Marriage certificate: I haven't actually got the exact marriage certificate..... She someone a few years later who wasn't the father of my great nan. I've seen the search result on and I tried to place an order for a copy of the certificate but after paying for it I had an email a few days later saying the certificate couldn't be found or didn't exist or something like that even though I gave all the correct info names and numbers like vol and page or whatever it was etc etc etc.

The earliest record I could find for her was she was admitted pregnant into a workhouse in 1910 she says she's 27 c.1883 on the admittance form and discharge form but her real age is 32 c.1878 as per her death certificate..... on the admittance records at the workhouses it states that she requires as she's pregnant and her discharge records show her being discharged with my great nan having given birth to her during her time at the workhouse....... The same name date of birth etc. Its 100%them as their names/ middle names are slightly unusual.

I've checked out different name variations first and surname etc and also tried to cross reference marriages with her first name to men of her surname she gave at time of workhouse admittance and found nothing. My mum said she was extremely religious and having a baby out of wedlock was very odd for someone who religious back then. Which makes me think there's so much more to her story but I have no idea where to she gave her profession as servant and I have also look into the address she gave on the workhouses records and I found newspaper clippings advertising her flat as a place for executive couples or professionals that kind of thing I can't remember the exact wording right now but it was along those lines.

Any help.would be more and appreciated x

saffyBoo Mon 12-Nov-18 22:56:56

Also forgot to say that she was working as a servant when the next census takes place the year after and the "man" of the house obviously completed that census and again her date of birth was off as being 5 years out. So why would she give false information about her birthday?

usertall Tue 13-Nov-18 09:21:48

This is so interesting. Where do you find all this information? I would love to research my family.

lekkerkroketje Tue 13-Nov-18 09:28:49

Knocking 5 years off would increase the chance of finding a man to take her and the baby on. At 32 she might have been considered a bit past it. But that's pure speculation

saffyBoo Tue 13-Nov-18 09:51:12

Usertall just researching names dates locations addresses found on censuses etc

usertall Tue 13-Nov-18 10:16:30

@saffyBoo where do you find census information? I've always wanted to do a family tree and look into ancestors etc.

saffyBoo Tue 13-Nov-18 10:34:10

On it will have info like dates of births addresses occupations etc

StarbucksSmarterSister Tue 13-Nov-18 10:48:46

Find My Past is also very good. A later period than you are looking at but it includes the 1939 wartime census which is invaluable as the 1931 was destroyed in bombing and they didn't do one in 41, not that they would be publicly available yet.

StarbucksSmarterSister Tue 13-Nov-18 10:52:03

Maybe her death cert is wrong? Have you got her birth cert?

StarbucksSmarterSister Tue 13-Nov-18 10:53:56

I forgot to say, the 1939 census includes date of birth, not just age. You could find her on that? If you don't want to fork out for a subscription, I could look her up for you.

saffyBoo Tue 13-Nov-18 12:08:54

@starbucks thanks so much I really appreciate the help but I do have a subscription..... I just double checked 1939 census and her birthday was put as 1878...... So the age all the family believed she was.

It's so odd because no-one in our family knows anything about her where she came from who her family were...... It was always a hush subject like you didn't ask or talk about it.

saffyBoo Tue 13-Nov-18 13:17:16

Does anyone know what this means when put in the remarks section of workhouse discharge paperwork x

CoperCabana Tue 13-Nov-18 14:23:25

How fascinating!

CoperCabana Tue 13-Nov-18 14:24:06

Sorry. Hit send too soon. Meant to say I have no value to add but hope you find some answers!

saffyBoo Tue 13-Nov-18 14:37:17

Thanks x

yamadori Tue 13-Nov-18 14:47:13

A lot of people would kick pregnant servants out on the street, so that could be why she ended up there. The remark in the discharge paperwork is possibly the name of the person she was going to go and work for when she left. Or it could be the husband of a married sister or cousin. Search for that name and see if anything comes up. Or could she have been transferred to another workhouse in Holloway?

Have you searched for births marriages and deaths on You need to get copies of the actual certificates and that is a UK-based site. It might be a bit more reliable as a source than Ancestry, where a lot of transcribers are from the USA and elsewhere, and may not be familiar with British names and towns etc. Mistakes can happen surprising frequently.

Order any certificates direct from the General Register Office website GRO - using the reference numbers from freebmd. There are loads of other websites but they aren't the official one and can charge a lot more.

The age on the death certificate is the information given to the registrar by the person registering the death, ie the informant. They may or may not have known her actual date of birth and could have given their best guess.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Tue 13-Nov-18 20:45:48

"Care of Mrs Holloway" - presumably was going into service and Mrs Holloway could have been the housekeeper or employer.

"Leaving 2 young children, chargeable, care of Miss Bandy" - could that mean her children were taken in by another woman and she paid for their keep?

yamadori Tue 13-Nov-18 23:39:46

Do the other lines relate to your relative OP, or to other individuals whose records are also on the page?

Looks like either Mrs Holloway or W Holloway. You can't always tell without comparing with more examples of that person's handwriting.

< gets completely sidetracked and goes off at a tangent... ponders Bandy surname, bit unusual.... mmm... looks like a local Bedfordshire name... lots of Bandys in Woburn... rather close to a big stately home, might need a lot of servants thereabouts... Dukes of Bedford had a lot of property in London as well... that might need servants too... >

saffyBoo Wed 14-Nov-18 10:44:52

@yamadori no just that line relates to her. I think it means care of workhouse Holloway. But it could mean care of Mrs Holloway? I found out that she was transferred to a workhouse in Thanet Kent then got a job as a servant in a local hotel and her baby was put in a foster home half a mile down to road. Not sure if it was a foster home but there was a women and daughters listed as looking after various infants and they listed them as "nurse child". I don't know who or how this was organised arrangement. I have so many questions it's frustrating.

Does anyone know if pregnant mothers or those who have had a baby while in the workhouse were transferred around or were they found jobs etc ?

yamadori Wed 14-Nov-18 22:34:26

Paupers were usually removed to their home parish, as other parishes were unhappy about having to pay for someone else's problem. If a woman was abandoned or widowed, then she could be sent to her husband's home parish, which often meant being sent to a place she had never even been to, let alone lived in.

Was she, in fact already widowed? Had she been abandoned by her husband, maybe, or had she run away from him? If she had been married before, she might have moved to a new area and lied about her age and marital status when she got there. If she says she is 27 on the earliest record you can find her on but could be as old as 32, then it is highly likely she had already been married (and possibly even had other children). That could explain why you can't find her earlier than that. She could be under a different surname.

usertall Sat 17-Nov-18 20:59:01

Any update OP. Found this thread fascinating.

GodolphianArabian Sun 18-Nov-18 07:15:43

I think yamadori is probably right. She was married before and was either abandoned or ran away. That would fit with her being religious and being pregnant and appearing out of nowhere.

ivykaty44 Sun 18-Nov-18 07:26:22

It’s W and small o

I would think she’s been discharged to Holloway workhouse

Take a look at Holloway workhouse admissions (if they survive) and see if she was admitted

Age wasn’t as important to get correct, and unfortunately going into the workhouse wasn’t somewhere you’d knock years off to bag a husband - wh was segregated and males and females didn’t mix

If knocking the years if took your ancestor from being an adult to a child then this would be worthwhile- less harsh conditions for children

ivykaty44 Sun 18-Nov-18 07:30:00


Look in the workhouse minute books, for both workhouses, as it may be minutes why your ancestor was moved

ivykaty44 Sun 18-Nov-18 07:35:12

"Leaving 2 young children, chargeable, care of Miss Bandy" - could that mean her children were taken in by another woman and she paid for their keep?

It’s three separate people in the discharge book

One going to Holloway workhouse
The next person / possibly discharged and leaving two children behind
Third person to care of Mrs bandy

It’s a great big ledger with lines going across and each person got a line - op has taken a screen shot and cropped the photo

madvixen Sun 18-Nov-18 07:35:13

It wouldn't have been unusual for people to not actually know their date of birth, it may have been an honest mistake.

If you know the workhouses involved, there is a fascinating website here that will give you more information on them.

saffyBoo Sun 18-Nov-18 08:56:44

Hello, thanks for all the posts on here. I don't know where to start.....

This is a major mystery to me because I did a DNA test and it came back with a very surprising result and having traced my family back on every other branch so to speak this is the last piece of my puzzle so to speak.

I always thought she must have been married before but when I cross reference her first name and married second name I don't find anything that's a solid connection. On the workhouses documents it says she's Roman Catholic and my mum remembers (from when she was very little) her great grandmother being extremely religious. That makes me think that someone who's so religious would have been married at 32 and probably not had a baby out of wedlock but I can't find any info to support this.

The Kent workhouse documents aren't online so I emailed the Kent archive where they are kept and the person who emailed back confirmed that she would have been sent to Kent for a reason I.e. connection somewhere. Listed as her birthplace on all documents I can find it says Poplar London, on all censuses, workhouse records etc. Also the Kent archives can get me the documents for a small fee so I have filled out the relevant forms to get The Kent workhouse forms. I also need to get the governor minutes from the Islington workhouse. Apparently in those minutes recorded by the workhouse governors will be the reason why she went to Kent.

On the workhouse documents and the census in 1911 it says she's single. Although it seems given everything I think she actually might have been a single pregnant servant.

PoshPenny Sun 18-Nov-18 09:28:33

Have you considered that she may have been raped and that's why she ended up pregnant? Droit de seigneur I think was the term when the men of the house felt they were entitled to have their wicked way with any of the servants?

swampytiggaa Sun 18-Nov-18 09:35:28

My Nan (born in the 1880’s) was always unclear about her age - always claimed to be younger than she was. Not sure that registration was as accurate back in the day...

ivykaty44 Sun 18-Nov-18 09:51:56

Where are the records to say that this woman was in service before getting pregnant?

saffyBoo Sun 18-Nov-18 13:39:40

ivykaty44 her profession was listed as servant on the workhouses documents

@poshpenny yes that did cross my mind, regarding the address she listed as a previous address on the workhouses docs when I searched that I found press clippings advertising the dwellings as flats for professional or married couples not sure if they would have been grand enough for a servant? They were two bed places.

ivykaty44 Sun 18-Nov-18 18:10:39

Saffy it was regular to have a domestic servant but not all lived in, a bit like many have cleaners today many had doestic servants

puddlesplashing Sun 25-Nov-18 09:49:56

How's your research going op?

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