The twenty-ninth’s twists and turnsI’m usually one of the last people to notice things like, oh, an extra day tucked into the year here and there. But I surprised myself this year by actually realizing, in advance, that, yep, sure enough, 2012 is a Leap Year1 and today, the 29th of February, is a Leap Day.2
And that got me to thinking. (A dangerous pastime. I know.3)
I have roughly 2,800 people in my regrettably-not-well-sourced personal genealogy database. Some of them — my parents and grandparents, for example — have a lot of individual event entries. And for many many more of ’em, I’m lucky if I have their names and a guesstimate as to year of birth.
I ran a filtered report to come up with how many events I’ve recorded over the years that happened in the month of February, and came up with hundreds of February events starting with my sixth (and seventh) great grandfather4 Martin Davenport Sr. getting a land grant in Virginia in 17275 right up to the death of my uncle, Billy Rex Cottrell, in 2008.6
So… how many of those February events occurred on a Leap Day?
The more recent was the birth of a third cousin in Texas in 1940.7 We lost that cousin last year.8 And the other was the birth of Sterling Jones, a 4th great granduncle (thank heavens for The Master Genealogist and its relationship calculator), in 1776.
And by the way, I don’t have any events in my database that occurred on February 30, but I could have. There was one — and only one — February 30th in Sweden in 1712 (they goofed in converting from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian, had to convert back, and needed two leap days to do it). And there was a 30th of February in the official calendar of the Soviet Union in 1930 and 1931 as the revolutionaries tried to revolutionize even the calendar. Their efforts to have five-day weeks and equal length months didn’t last.9
So… where was I again? Oh yeah. Sterling Jones. When I looked at his birth entry, I realized that I’d gotten that information from a website I hadn’t looked at in years, and I really needed to track this information back and verify it myself. And, I discovered, no source was cited on what is generally an extremely well-documented website.10
Out onto the web to consult that eminent scholar, Dr. Google. Search term: “Sterling Jones 1776.” Up pops a 2008 research report by Richard L. McCutcheon, “John Jones (Jr), Rutherford Co NC, Jackson Co Al, Cherokee Co Texas,” reporting that the birthdate of Sterling and his siblings, including my 4th great grandmother Elizabeth (Jones) Buchanan, were “from the John Jones family bible in possession of descendants in Rutherford Co, and transcribed by Mrs. Beatrix Ramey ca 1970.”
Okay. We’re getting closer. Rutherford County, North Carolina, is where Sterling Jones died,11 where his sister, my 4th great grandmother, was married,12 and where Sterling’s and Elizabeth’s father John Jones died and was buried.13 The listed transcriber — Jenny Beatrix Blanton Ramey (1913-2007) — was a professor emeritus at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, and a powerhouse in the Cleveland County-Rutherford County area genealogical community for many years who transcribed many Cleveland and Rutherford County records.14 Doublecheck my files. There’s a reference to an “old John Jones family Bible” in the discussion of the family in the Rutherford County Heritage Book.15
Good start. But not good enough.
Check the North Carolina State Archives. They have a John Jones family Bible … but it’s from Alamance County, not Rutherford. Check the North Carolina State Library. They have materials from Beatrix Ramey, but no Bible transcriptions.
Can’t find a website for Richard L. McCutcheon but Dr. Google informs me that there’s a Larry McCutcheon who’s been writing about the John Jones family. Wanna take bets what Richard L. McCutcheon’s middle name is? Track down references to him, find he has a link on another site to — tada!! — the very same Richard L. McCutcheon research notes I first found. Cool. Using the email address, reach out for Larry.
He responds quickly, and I shoot back the question: where did you get your info? And attach my own line info so I’m not coming to the table empty-handed. While waiting for a response, locate websites for genealogical societies for both Cleveland and Rutherford Counties.16 One has a list of researchers with surnames… and e-mail addresses. I can’t resist. Maybe one of them knows who owns the Bible today, or where the transcription can be found.
Larry responds with information about specific researchers in North Carolina who had personally seen and copied data from the Bible, and with corroboration of its information: the birthdate of his ancestor, John Jones Jr., on his Texas tombstone matches the birthdate recorded in the Bible. He also confirms that DNA puts his John Jones Jr. squarely into this particular North Carolina Jones family. And with digital images of the family Bible of Edmond Jones, Sterling’s and Elizabeth’s brother, and Edmond’s birthdate in that Bible matches what we’re told the John Jones Bible says.
Better, but still not good enough. All I’ve got at the moment is at best a second generation derivative source: a report by person 2 of the contents of a transcription by person 1 of an original source, the Bible. And I’d still need to know more about the Bible to know if it contains primary information — whether whoever wrote the Bible entries was in a position to have first-hand knowledge of what was written.
So now my task is to try to track down the Bible myself, and, if that’s not possible, to at least find a first generation copy of its data. That ought to keep me busy and out of trouble for a while.17
You have to love the twists and turns of a February 29th. All because I was curious… how many events in my family occurred on Leap Day?
How many in your family?
- Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Leap year,” rev. 24 Feb 2012. See also “Leap year: 2012 is a Leap Year,” timeanddate.com (http://www.timeanddate.com : accessed 28 Feb 2012). ↩
- Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “February 29,” rev. 26 Feb 2012. ↩
- Beauty and the Beast (1991), “Gaston Reprise.” ↩
- I am descended both through Martin’s daughter Dorothy — she married Thomas Baker and their son David Baker was my 4th great grandfather, and through Martin’s son Thomas — Thomas’s daughter Mary Davenport married William Wiseman, and their daughter Dorothy Wiseman married her cousin David Baker and was my 4th great grandmother. Confused yet? Want a scorecard? ↩
- John Scott Davenport, “The Further Chronicles of the Pamunkey Davenports, Part One,” in The Pamunkey Davenport Papers, CD-ROM (Charles Town, W.Va. : Pamunkey Davenport Family Association, 2009), 148. ↩
- Obituary, “Billy Rex Cottrell,” Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress, 1 Mar 2008; online at Legacy.com (http://www.legacy.com : accessed 28 Feb 2012). ↩
- “Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 28 Feb 2012), entry for Robert Lee Scott, 29 February 1940. ↩
- Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 28 Feb 2012), entry for Robert Lee Scott, 2011. ↩
- “February 30 was a real date,” timeanddate.com (http://www.timeanddate.com/date/february-30.html : accessed 28 Feb 2012). ↩
- George Baumbach, “John Pettypool and Sarah ?Sanford,” Colonial Pettipool-Poole-P’Poole Families (http://www.mindspring.com/~baumbach/ppoole/ : accessed 28 Feb 2012). ↩
- Rutherford County, North Carolina, Original Estate Records: file “Jones, Sterling, 1816”; call no. C.R. 086.801.1; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh. ↩
- Marriage bond, Rutherford County, North Carolina, Elizabeth Jones and William Buckhanon, 8 Apr 1793; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh. ↩
- Rutherford County, North Carolina, Original Estate Records: file “Jones, John, 1821.” See also W.D. Floyd, “Cleveland County Cemeteries,” Website On Disks, CD-ROM (Forest City, NC : Genealogical Society of Old Tryon County, 2007), entry for John Jones, Sandy Run Baptist Cemetery. ↩
- Obituary, “Jenny Beatrix Blanton Ramey,” The (Cleveland County, NC) Star, 26 Sept 2007; reprinted online, Findagrave (http://findagrave.com : accessed 28 Feb 2012). ↩
- Roy Brooks, “The John Jones Family,” no. 399, in Genealogical Society of Old Tryon County, The Heritage of Rutherford County North Carolina, vol. I (Winston-Salem, N.C. : Hunter Pub. Co., 1984), 282. ↩
- Cleveland was created from Rutherford and Lincoln Counties in 1841. Act of 11 Jan 1841, Chapter 9, Laws of North Carolina 1840-1841 (Raleigh : W.R. Gales, 1841), 25; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 28 Feb 2012). ↩
- Okay, okay. Busy, at any rate. ↩