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Weird shared dates and the Birthday Effect

September 12, 2018

Shared Birthdays

Our family enjoys several shared birthdays. My sister Wendy and our niece Rosey share a birthday. My nephew Jesse shares a birthday with my father, his grandfather. And one of my nieces has the same birthday as Mom!

 

A Watson birthday party, c. 1954. Children L to R: Wendy Watson, Nancy Cobb, Ann Watson, Clyde Watson, Linda Watson, Peter Watson. Adults: Grandparents Ann Bauer Dingman, Norman McLeod Dingman.

 

Shared Birth and Death Days

And then there are cases of death dates shared with birth dates. I spent about three years doing detailed research on my great-great grandfather William Watson. By the end of it I felt, and continue to feel, very connected to him. He died on March 20, 1911, the same month and day as my birthday. When William was in his sixties, he and Maria, my great-great-grandmother, ended up caring for their disabled daughter Cora (my great-grandfather's niece, my first cousin twice removed) for at least a year. She died at age sixteen, on March 20 — the same date that her grandfather William would, nineteen years later, depart this life. And the same date that I would enter it, 41 years later.

 

A mathematician in the family has reminded me that since there are only 365 days in the year, shared birthdays are highly probable, considering the world population is seven billion plus at this point. But why do these particular people share these particular dates? So far, I've found no other common dates in our family tree.

 

The Birthday Effect

William's birthday was March 17, and he died three days later. My father died four days before his 96th birthday. Granddad Watson died 9 days after his birthday. Great-grandfather Herman Bauer died two weeks after his birthday. Great-great-grandmother Dingman was born on February 22 and died on January 22. All examples of the "Birthday Effect." Apparently some studies have indicated that statistically, people are somewhat likely to die near their birthday. However, this isn't consistently shown. For more on the "Birthday Effect" see this Wikipedia article.

 

What about you?

Write a comment about your family shared birthdays or weird birthday dates!

 

This post was written in response to this week's theme, "Closest to Your Birthday," in Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project.

 

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