When The Documents Have the Wrong Date…..

My grandmother and her twin brother were indeed twins born in 1918.  I spoke with the lady (their aunt) who was the midwife and she told me exactly what their birth was like. My great grandfather named the girl Leona, most likely after his twin brother Robert Lee.  The sister named the boy Robert, after her then boyfriend, soon to be husband.  However, my grandmother celebrates her birthday on 17 Feb 1918 and her brother on 17 Feb 1917.  Why?

Well, let’s look a little at the family history. Neither child had a birth certificate and the mother had them at home with a younger sister-in-law for a midwife. No doctor was in attendance. The birth was recorded in the paternal grandmother’s Bible as 17 Feb 1918.  In 1920, the father dies of TB. The children were two when their father died.  According the the Bible, he died in December 1920.  He has no death certificate.  The mother’s family hated the father’s family and the mother rarely went around her in-laws after the death of the father.

When he was about five years old, Robert Lee Victory, my great uncle jumped out of a barn onto a pile of hay, breaking his leg.  Whether the leg didn’t heal properly or never received treatment at all is unknown. Knowing the personality of his grandfather and the economy of the time period, it most likely never received treatment, or the treatment wasn’t good.  At any rate, his mother put him in the Junior League Cripple home.  The Junior League Cripple home in Nashville, TN opened in 1923. To be admitted, a child had to be six years old.

It is only speculation, but I believe when my great grandmother took her young son to admit him, they asked how old he was. Knowing he had to be at least six, she stated he had been born in 1917, making him six years old.  Maybe she didn’t know his real birthday. Maybe she confused the years. Maybe she did what any loving parent would do, she lied to get him the treatment and schooling he needed. A year later, the school might have been full and he might not have been accepted.  We will never know.

In 1928, my great grandmother died.  You can read her story here:  Sins of the Father….  Her father decided to put the younger two girls into the Tennessee Industrial Home for Children.  This was an orphanage for children with no family support. The older two girls were old enough to work on the farm and the youngest child was a boy.  My grandmother and her sister would enter the Tennessee Industrial Home for Children and stay there until they were 18.  My grandmother’s date of birth: 17 Feb 1918. The same date recorded in her paternal grandmother’s Bible.

So there you have it:  Two official records of birth, with different years. The children were indeed twins.  Officially born a year apart.  There is usually a good explanation for why a record is incorrect. Human mistakes, emotions, ulterior motives. We just have to figure out what those were.

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