Nicholas Eastin c1850
Photo courtesy of R. Eastin
AVING RECENTLY MADE CONTACT WITH SOME LONG-LOST EASTIN COUSINS (and since it is one of my 2013 goals), I’ve been inspired to re-double my efforts to break through one of the most persistent brick walls in my family tree — Nicholas Eastin. And while he’s actually been quite agreeable about sharing many of the details of his life he’s remained stubbornly silent on one of the most important pieces of the puzzle — the names of his parents.
As frustrating as this is, discovering my great-great grandfather’s story has been made all the more interesting by the fact he’s the first ancestor in my grandparent’s family history where more than a few “facts” don’t quite add up.
Mixed-Up Birth Dates and Missing Leap Years
The first problem arises with Nicholas’ birth date. My grandfather claimed it was February 29, 1818 in Kentucky; Nicholas’ headstone says February 28, 1818. Ok, lots of February 29ers use the 28th for their birthday. The real problem here is that 1818 was NOT a leap year.
There are two possibilities:
- Nicholas was actually born Feb. 28, 1818 and was not a leap year baby
- Nicholas was a February 29er and his birth year was really 1816 or 1820 which were leap years
My grandfather wrote quite a bit about Nicholas’ life, he knew him and spent time with him, and his memory of attending his grandfather’s 80th birthday when he turned “20” seems to indicate Nicholas really was a leap year baby.
But there are problems with this as well.
How Old Was Nicholas… Really?
Assuming for the moment that Nicholas was a leap year baby and that his birth year was 1816, he would have been 80 in 1896. However counting by leap years, he’d have only been “19”. More importantly, my grandfather was only 6 months old at the time and I doubt he’d remember any birthday party
On the other hand, if Nicholas was born in 1820 he’d have been 80 in 1900 — but 1900 wasn’t a leap year so he couldn’t have turned “20”. The next leap year was 1904 in which he would’ve been “20” but his actual age was 84.
So where do all these convoluted calculations lead?
It’s my working theory that Nicholas was born February 29, 1820 and that in 1904 my grandfather (aged nine) attended his 84th birthday party when he turned “20”. Until I find some kind of birth record it’s my best guess.
Death Date Discrepancy
There’s yet another problem with my grandfather’s account of Nicholas’ life — his assertion that “Grandfather outlived his sweetheart wife by 20 years.” I don’t know how he arrived at this conclusion but it’s definitely wrong. While Nicholas’ wife, Sarah Todd, did predecease him in 1901, Nicholas only lived another six years, passing away in 1907 from a malignant tumour of the jaw. All of which makes me a bit nervous because if grandad could make such a glaring error about this maybe the story about the birthday party is a fairy tale as well.
Unfortunately, none of this gets me any closer to the names of Nicholas’ parents and in the log run, maybe it doesn’t matter that much if he was born in 1818 or 1820. He’d have been counted in the “to 10″ column of the 1820 census and the “Of 10 and under 15″ column of the 1830 either way. And when he married in 1838 he’d have been under 21 and would’ve needed permission either way as well. So why do I care? Because apart from trying to further my grandparent’s research I’m attempting to document the claims they made and, if necessary, correct errors. So in that sense, it matters a great deal.
Next Time: Nicholas’ Marriage and Chasing Down Collateral Relatives