Leap Year Day and Your Relatives

Here is that special day once every four years where an extra day is added to the calendar to keep in line with seasons and astronomical events – calendars because the earth does not orbit around the sun in precisely 365 days.  Since one can not add a ¼ of a day, the four quarters will make one day, so one extra day every four years is the solution.

To keep the adjustments actuate over centuries there were and will be certain years which would have had a leap day, but do not.  Some more recent years without a leap day were 1700, 1800 and 1900.  Now the year 2000 did have a leap day but the next century mark not having a leap year will be 2100, followed by 2200, etc.  The every four years pattern of adding a leap day would continue with; 1804, 1808, 1812, 1816, 1820, 1824, 1828, 1832, 1836, 1840, 1844, 1848, 1852, 1856, 1860, 1864 and so on.

So if you have done any amount of research on your ancestors, you could easily have at least one and maybe more relatives who were born, married or died on that leap day of February 29th.  For those individuals born on a leap day, they are typically known as ‘leaper’ or ‘leapling.’ It is up to the family or individual of whether they recognize and celebrate their birthday on the non-leap years, either on February 28th or March 1st.   The individual can really only count the actual birth age when February 29th occurred, which would be once every four years. So that person would only be one-fourth their age.  The laws even vary across states and countries of what is legally a leaper’s birthday.

Some of the famous and notable people born on February 29th over the decades include: Ann Lee, born 1736 in Manchester England, went on begin the Shaker religion movement; John Phillip Holland, born in 1828 in Ireland, who designed and constructed the first submarine for U.S. Navy; William A. Wellman, born in 1896 in U. S. who directed the 1928 movie ’Wings’; Jimmy Dorsey, born 1904 in U. S. who became a famous saxophonist, conductor, songwriter and composer; Dinah Shore, born 1916 in U. S., a renown actress, singer and television show host;  and Jack Lousma, born in 1936 in U. S.  who became an astronaut serving on Skylab 3 flight in 1973 and Columbia Space Shuttle in 1982.

A rare occurrence was in the Henriksen family of Norway. Three children of the family were born on February 29th; a daughter Heidi in 1960, a son, Olav in 1964 and then a son, Leif-Martin born in 1968.

Many couples like to select that special and unique February 29th as a wedding date. That may have been the case with an ancestor or two in your family.   An interesting tradition started in Europe in the 1600s and well into the 20th century of making it permissible for females to propose marriage on February 29th to a male and that he had to accept. It would be the one time every four years that a girl had a chance to snag a husband.

Dying on February 29, a relative would generally not have too much of a selection of that date.  There have been numerous notorious people who died on that rare day.  There was Pat Garrett, a renown old west sheriff who was killed in N. M. in 1908; Ernie Courtney, a professional baseball player, died in 1920;  Tom Davies, a professional football player died in 1972 and Jerome Lawrence, a screenwriter, author and playwright who died in 2004.

I found one ancestor in my own tree who was born February 29, 1836 and another born in 1892. Then two different couples who had married February 29, one in 1880 and the other in 1888 and one ancestor who died February 29, 1880. Note, the one that died in 1880 was the father of the girl born in 1836, the same family.

So there can be some interesting finds in checking out your ancestors and Leap Year.

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