“Excepting February alone…”
Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone…
— Oxford Concise Dictionary of Quotations.
Guess what today is?
It’s that extra day tucked into an occasional February every now and then.
Today is Leap Day 2020. The extra day tucked into that winter month to keep the calendar in sync with the seasons. If we didn’t do that, eventually February would be in the summer.1
It’s thrown in roughly every four years — not every four, not in years that end in 00 unless that year is also divisible by 4002 — and that gives us the extra day this year.
And that got me to thinking. (A dangerous pastime. I know.3)
I have give or take 3,000 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 not to mention a birth or two of folks we welcome with all our hearts but that probably ought not to be posted on the internet until they’re old enough to say yea or nay.
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 relationship calculators), 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
The last time I looked at this, I had consulted that eminent scholar, Dr. Google. Search term: “Sterling Jones 1776.” Up popped 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.”
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 Doublechecked 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.
Checked the North Carolina State Archives. They have a John Jones family Bible … but it’s from Alamance County, not Rutherford. Checked the North Carolina State Library. They have materials from Beatrix Ramey, but no Bible transcriptions.
Couldn’t find a website for Richard L. McCutcheon but Dr. Google informed me that there was a Larry McCutcheon who’s been writing about the John Jones family. Wanna take bets what Richard L. McCutcheon’s middle name is? Tracked down references to him, found he had a link on another site to — tada!! — the very same Richard L. McCutcheon research notes I first found. Cool. Using the email address, reached out for Larry.
He responded quickly, and I shot back the question: where did you get your info? And I attached my own line info so I wasn’t coming to the table empty-handed. While waiting for a response, located websites for genealogical societies for both Cleveland and Rutherford Counties.16
Larry responded 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 matched the birthdate recorded in the Bible. He also confirmed 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… how many events in my family occurred on Leap Day? Two, and one presents a doozy of a research task. I still need 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
How many in your family?
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Leap Day 2020,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 29 Feb 2020).
- See generally Deanna Conners, “Why do we need leap years?”, EarthSky, posted 29 Feb 2020 (https://earthsky.org/ : accessed 29 Feb 2020). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- 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 29 Feb 2020). ↩
- “Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 29 Feb 2020), entry for Robert Lee Scott, 29 February 1940. ↩
- Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 29 Feb 2020), entry for Robert Lee Scott, 2011. ↩
- “February 30 was a real date,” timeanddate.com (http://www.timeanddate.com/date/february-30.html : accessed 29 Feb 2020). ↩
- George Baumbach, “John Pettypool and Sarah ?Sanford,” Colonial Pettipool-Poole-P’Poole Families (http://www.mindspring.com/~baumbach/ppoole/ : accessed 29 Feb 2020). ↩
- 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 (https://findagrave.com : accessed 29 Feb 2020). ↩
- 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 29 Feb 2020). ↩
- Okay, okay. Busy, at any rate. ↩