Thursday, May 31, 2012

Just Trying To Learn About The Man

To recap my 24 May post:  I debated James Lawrence Adam’s birth date. His death certificate reports that he was born 19 June 1872 in Des Moines, Iowa. As births were not recorded at that time in Iowa, I must rely on the U.S. Census records to help in determining his birth date. The following birth dates are reported in his census records.

1870 U.S. Census             Lawrence Adams            Age 11/12              Born in July
1880 U.S. Census             Lawrence Adams            Age 10           
1900 U.S. Census             James L.  Adams            Age 30
1910 U.S. Census             James L. Adams             Age 40
1920 U.S. Census             Missing data
1930 U.S. Census             James L. Adams            Age 57
1940 U.S. Census             James L. Adams            Age 71                       

The first discrepancy that shouts out at me is the name variations of this man. It appears that he may have been called Lawrence as a child. About 1900 Lawrence Adams suddenly becomes James L. Adams.

Are Lawrence Adams and James L. Adams the same person? I believe they are. In 1910 James L. Adams and wife reside with his parents, Dr. James W. Adams and Mary Adams. James W. and Mary were also reported to be Lawrence’s parents in the 1870 and 1880 census records. James W. and Mary most likely named their only son after his father.

The second discrepancy is that of age/birth date. As you can see, the 1870 U.S. Census reports Lawrence as being eleven months of age. Had Lawrence been born 19 June 1872, he would not have appeared in the 1870 Census. His appearance in the 1870 census strongly suggests a birth year of 1870 or earlier.

The census also reports the birth month as July; which is tricky. With James being eleven months of age and with the census enumeration date of 13 June 1870, it is a logical assumption that James was born in July of 1869. Yet his family celebrated a June birthday according to his surviving daughter.

As the years progress, Lawrence’s age progresses logically as he ages ten years in each census until the year 1900. 1900 seems to be a year of change. As an adult, Lawrence becomes James L. In 1930 his age is reported as 57 when logic suggests 60. Then in 1940, James L. Adam’s age is reported as 71.

Why would James Lawrence Adam’s age be reported in 1930 as three years younger that his logical age? It may have something to do with his young wife and daughter. James Lawrence was thirty years older than his second wife, Charlotte. In 1930 James Lawrence and Charlotte Adams (age 29) had a three-year old daughter. He may have wanted to appear younger with a wife and child of such a young age.

Life is full of discrepancies. So, was James Lawrence Adams born in June or July? Was he born in 1869, 1870 or 1872? What do you think?


  1. Record discrepancies was very common in the older days since everything was in hand writing unlike today were everything is computerized.

  2. I appreciate your input. I write this post for my readers with the teaching them about discrepancies. Many of my readers are family.