The Old Age Pension was introduced throughout the United Kingdom (which then included what is now the Republic of Ireland) in January 1909. In order to claim, you had to be 70 years of age or older and you would have to prove you were old enough.
In Scotland and Ireland it could be very difficult to prove your age. In Ireland civil registration of births had not begun until 1864 so nobody of pension age in 1909, who had been born in Ireland, had a birth certificate. Although civil registration of births had began nine years earlier in Scotland it still meant that none of the first applicants for the Old Age Pension had a birth certificate.
What was to be done?
First of all a search could be made in parish records. Sometimes a baptism could be found, but in a number of cases (as you will know if you have ever searched for these) nothing could be found. It was decided that in Ireland and Scotland searches could be made in the 1841 and 1851 census to verify ages.
This is a very valuable resource in Ireland as in the years that followed most of the 1841 and 1851 census enumeration books were destroyed. The remaining Age Verification forms are a really valuable resource. To read more about this see Chris Paton's excellent blog: Walking in eternity.
In Scotland I cannot find these age verification forms. I have been able to demonstrate (contrary to the belief of some) that they did exist in Scotland and I also have some statistics. Here is an extract from a file held by the National Records of Scotland (their reference is GRO5/778):
STATEMENT showing NO. of SEARCHES in CENSUS RETURNS of 1841 and of 1851 on behalf of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD in each month from January 1911 to February 1912.
In the same file (GRO5/778) there is also a copy of a question raised by Captain Murray in the House of Commons on 7 August 1912. The question was: “To ask the Secretary for Scotland, whether he can state the number of persons in Scotland who were in receipt of old age pensions on 1st January 1909, 1st January 1910, 1st January 1911, and 1st January 1912.”
The reply by Mr. Masterman. - “There are no records to show the number of old age pensioners on the 1st January in any year except 1909; but the following figures represent the number of persons who were in receipt of old age pensions in Scotland on 1st January 1909, 1910, 1911, and 1912.
On 1st January 1909 64,770
On Friday immediately preceding 1st January 1910 76,037
On Friday immediately preceding 1st January 1911 80,502
On Friday immediately preceding 1st January 1912 94,243”
If the Scottish Age Verification forms could be found they would be really interesting. Whilst they concern a small percentage of the population, it is the percentage of the population that were struggling during their lifetime, to provide proof of their their age. If you are now tracing your family tree just think how useful it would be to have a record from 1909 for these individuals!!
If you have any insight into what has happened to these forms please get in touch.
England and WalesCivil registration beginning in England and Wales in 1837 meant that some pensioners had birth certificates, but also the parish registers for the period immediately before 1837 are in much better order than in Scotland and Ireland. It therefore seems that the census was not often (if ever) used for the purposes of age verification.
Original Application forms
The Age verification forms should not be confused with the original pension application forms, which every claimant would have filled in right at the start of the process, regardless of whether they had evidence of their age or not. They would be interesting to find too and will be the subject of another blog.
UPDATE: Read part two
UPDATE: Read part two