February 29, 2012

Catherine Boon Crites: A Leap Day Mystery

I scoured my database for ancestors who were born, married, or died on Leap Day, and came up with one match: Catherine Boon, born February 29, 1804. Catherine was my husband’s great-great-great-grandmother. She married George Crites in 1827, and died October 1, 1853 in Ohio. How do I know this? Ah, there’s the rub.

My sole piece of evidence regarding Catherine’s birth is a handwritten pedigree chart drawn by Harold Crites, my husband’s great-uncle. Harold was a college professor and did a lot of family history research before his death in 1973. His chart is painstakingly neat and no doubt reflects his best research, but unfortunately it mentions no sources. I suspect the information about Catherine came from his father, George F. Crites. If he had written evidence, it’s been lost somewhere along the way.

Searches for hard information regarding the birth date of Catherine Boon Crites on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have come up empty. She was 41 years old in the 1850 census of Putnam County, Ohio, which suggests a birth year of 1809. She died before death records were kept in Ohio. There are, however, a couple of people besides me who have her in their Ancestry member trees. One says she was born in Pennsylvania, which is what the 1850 census and her son’s entry in the 1900 census indicate. Another offers an alternate spelling of her name, Catherine Bohn, and says she was born in Holland. Both members give the birth year 1804.

1804 was, indeed, a leap year. In fact February 29, 1804 fell on a Wednesday, just like today. It’s an uncommon date and somehow that gives it just a bit more credence. My gut instinct is that for this family tradition of Catherine’s birth date to survive over 200 years, there must be some truth to it. I just need to keep looking for more evidence to prove it.

  1. Harold R. Crites, “Pedigree of Annah Louise Crites Bishop”, ca. 1970. Handwritten chart given by Crites to Robert F. Bishop; held in 2012 by Shelley Bishop. The chart does not provide source citations.
  2. 1850 U.S. census, Van Buren, Putnam County, Ohio, population schedule, p. 48A, dwelling 2, family 2, George Krites; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 4 May 2011), citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 681.


  1. Hi Shelley thanks so much for sharing. Don't you just hate it when you have such great information but no source? And you would think that with such specific information there's got to be a source out there somewhere? I have this problem with the 30 years of research materials I got from my Grandfather. I think he forgot to give me the other 15 boxes because there's no sources in what he did give me and what little sources are included in his genealogy software have been copied from the internet! Keep looking, I'm sure it will turn up eventually!

  2. Thanks, Ginger. Glad to know I'm not the only one with this challenge. If only we could find the magic box our informants forgot to give us! Good luck with your search.


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