Genealogy: Be sure to check your own myths too!
For as long as I can remember, every time my birthday rolls around I get caught up in the same family story. This story, myth, or legend, I was never sure which, was always trotted out and said to me on or about my birthday, which happens to be the 25th, which is why I got to thinking about it again. My grandparents and folks always told it, then my wife, now my children, and I’ll admit even I would tell it on occasion.
It goes like this: We always celebrated my birthday on the 25th, but inevitably my father would tell anyone within earshot how I was actually born on the 24th. Back in those days, fathers waited in the waiting room in hospitals while their children were being born. On this occasion, my father found himself waiting right outside the delivery room. He always maintained he heard me cry at 11:59 p.m. on October 24th. However he would also always point out the doctor, being busy did not look up at the clock, or ask the nurse to, until it was 12:01 a.m. on the 25th.
It made for a cute story, which my folks always enjoyed telling each and every year. However, actually years later it would have a potential impact on my life when the Selective Service held its draft lottery for draftees to fight in the war in Vietnam. You see the ping pong ball for the 25th came up 17 while the ping pong ball for the 24th came up 149. In case you are wondering, the call up from this lottery stopped with the number 125. BIG difference!
Now decades later, this story while still following me along on my birthday, found me thinking about it as a genealogist. Was this story true or was it just a myth blown out of proportion? Was I perhaps simply born late in the evening and it turned into a good story? Sadly, my folks have both passed now, so I did the best I could. Turned to the paper trail. As good, old President Reagan said “trust, but verify”, which is actually an old Russian proverb!
While it took some time, I went to the best record I could think of. I sent off for a copy of my birth certificate. I was not sure it would have a time on it, but I figured someday I’d be happy to have a copy, so I ordered it.
You can see a portion of the result in the image below:
There it is. The time of my birth as logged by the doctor as 12:01 a.m. Just as my father said it was – and while there was no note attached to declare otherwise, I can just imagine a birth taking place, late into the night. The baby cries, the doctor is preoccupied with checking to see if the baby is breathing, breathing tube clear, cutting the cord, and telling the mother “It’s a boy!” Clearly by the time he glanced at the clock it was 12:01 a.m. Or perhaps it was 12:00 a.m. exactly, but not being sure which day that would make my birthday, added a minute to it just to be safe. It’s proof enough for me that my dad was right all along and I did wail at 11:59 p.m. and my birthday is actually the 24th not the 25th!
So the only questions I have left now are these:
Do I open my gifts today – or do I have to wait until tomorrow and do I have one birthday or two?
Onward To Our Past®