There is an adage about always considering sources closest to an event as more accurate than others. The age of my grandmother, Madonna/Donna is a perfect case of that policy.
Donna was born 20 Feb 1893 in Albion, Calhoun County, Michigan, to John F and Ida Montran [Montrau]. The 1900 (Madonna used a step father’s name) and 1910 censuses are consistent with that birth year.
Donna went into show business. In the 1920 census her occupation was “actress” and her age was 23, although she would have been 26. During the next seven years Donna only aged three years being only 26 years old when her son was born in 1927.
Donna doesn’t show up in the 1930 census, due to travel during the census. However, she does show up in an April 1930 Passenger List, returning from Panama, as only 25 years old. She kept that 1905 birthdate through her daughter’s birth in 1932. Sadly she kept to the 1905 birth year when she applied for a Social Security Number in 1937, a mistake which cost her in later life (twelve years of benefits).
In the 1940 Census she reported that she was only 36, although she was 47, aging 11 years in the ten years between censuses. I’ll be very interested in seeing what she reported when the 1950 census comes out.
I should note that in all records the date, February 20th, was always the same, only the age or year changed. As Donna’s life shows, records closest to the event are typically the most accurate.