Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Houdini's Chosen Birthday

Today is the day in which Houdini actually celebrated as his birthday. It's possible that he never knew his real birthday and if you go over to, John Cox has a few more things to add to this.

Let me give you my take, and please know this is my opinion. For the past few months I've been delving into the world of genealogies. Digging up information on where my family originated has been exiting at times and frustrating at others. After having read through hundreds of different Census Records, I've noticed a very common trait. People prior to the 1900s didn't seem to either record or remember their dates of birth. Perhaps it wasn't important to them. It's very common to find a Census record for say 1880 that lists one birth date or birth year and then when you find one from say 1910 for the same person, the dates have changed. Birthdates and years are often recorded as 'about 1880' or 'abt 1900'.

Churches and temples often kept the official records. Today with birth certificates, it's easy to show that information. But in Houdini's day it was not always the case. Even Harry's brother Theo has two birth dates. I never looked into it, but I wonder if other members of the family celebrated different dates as well?

There is a nice 5 page article in the October 1971 issue of the Linking Ring by Bob Lund called "Somewhere West of Budapest, Somewhere East of Appleton" that delves more into the issue of the March 24th date over the April 6th date.

In any case, today is ANOTHER Houdini Birthday and the one HE celebrated.
So Happy Birthday Harry!


  1. You know, I've often thought the same thing as you. Today it seems very odd to not know your birthday, but I don't think it was all that odd back then, and especially when we're talking about a large family in 1874 Hungary. Families probably estimated birthdays. I mean, did you even NEED to know your exact birthday back then? I don't think there was the thought of a lifetime of identification documents that required your birthday. I think that came with the 20th century. Also, with infant mortality rates, it could have been the case that you really weren't too sure any given child would make it past 10 days. Maybe what mothers most remembered was the day she could finally relax and know she had a healthy living baby.

  2. Yes, that seems to be the case. I've worked on genealogies for several families and the lack of accurate birth dates and birth years is pretty consistent.

  3. Very true. I think you're onto something there.

    (That birthday cake looks like something is about to jump out of it).

  4. I was wondering if it might be Milla. You never know where she's going to pop up next.