An age of record can be an official age as established by a government document, or a documented age that serves to establish eligibility for services. Although the term seems fairly simple, disputes can arise when a person has no official birth record on file with a government agency. In these instances, age of record can be established by circumstantial evidence.
A person's date of birth establishes his age at any point in time. It is only in modern times in industrialized countries, however, that a majority of births happen in hospitals where an official birth record can be generated by an independent third party. In the historical past and currently in many lesser developed countries, births would take place at home, and, in many instances, without generating an official record.
Governments have a vested interest in establishing birth records for its population. A birth certificate, generated and recorded with the government upon a person's birth, establishes a person's age of record for all government services and benefits. For example, to obtain a driver's license, a government agency often requires the applicant to show a birth certificate to establish that his age of record with the government qualifies him to apply for the license. Many other types of government services and benefits are age-related, including retirement benefits, tax benefits and eligibility to enlist in the military.
When an official government document exists to establish a person's birth, it is definitive proof of a person's age of record. Problems arise when a person does not have an official birth record, when the record is wrong, or when a person no longer has access to the agency that has the record under its control. Typically, a person without a birth record will have one opportunity in his life to establish his age by circumstantial evidence. This can include a birth announcement in a newspaper, a religious record or an oral history. Once a person without a birth document establishes a date of birth for a government purpose, it becomes his age of record and is notoriously hard to change.
If it turns out that a person's birth certificate is wrong, or the birth date that was established by circumstantial evidence is wrong, the only way to correct it is to bring the issue to court. A court can decide the matter and establish an official age that the person can use going forward. An age of record is not only important for government services, it is also critical for everyday life. For example, schools often place children in classes based on their age of record. Children born before a certain date can enroll in school, while children born in the same year but after a certain date must wait until the next school year.