Monday, 4 September 2017

The Calendar Makes a Difference

A thing to consider when entering dates for the vital records of your ancestors is which calendar is in use at the time. France started using the Gregorian calendar in 1582, so the same day will be recorded as different days in Canada and the United States, until the US switched from Julian to Gregorian in 1752. 

In Britain and it's colonies before 1752 the Julian calendar was used, and the legal new year began on March 25th.  That is why in old English records the heading date is before March 25th.

In the early records of the 1500s perhaps you will see the word year and the month names written in Latin, and the days are written in Roman Numerals.  When the numeral is just 1 or ends in a 1, they may use a j. So one will be j and eighteen will be xviij.  In the above record the first baptism for the year 1566 was in May (last of previous year being in January) and the last baptism for 1566 was xxij Martius, or the 22nd of March. The following year has it's first baptism in April, since the New Year began March 25th.

The Gregorian calendar was adopted in the British Empire (including the New England) in Sept 1752, and during transition often dual dates could have been used.

Roman Calendar

In a post I did for New Year's Day in 2014, I wrote about the Julian Calendar and referred to a publication with the Roman Calendar, giving the months and days in Latin. It doesn't matter that the book is in French, you will understand from the Latin what the words for the months and days are.

Stephen P Morse of San Francisco has provided an easy online program which converts Julian to Gregorian and v.v.

Enter the date (before September 1752) in the Julian Calendar, make sure the New Year is set at March 25 for Britain. Next under Country, choose your ancestors country from the drop down menu. It will give you the last day the Julian Calendar was used and the official first day the Gregorian Calendar was used. Like I said, in some cases there can be overlap, or show dual dates.  Stephen has other calendar converters (eg Jewish, Mayan, etc), foreign letters and characters, plus other genealogy information on his website... click "My Other Webpages" to check it out. 

Relevant Links

Julian Calendar with Latin months

Calendar Converter, by Steven Morse

Roman Numerals

British Empire and Overseas Territories

Dissertation on the Anglo Saxon Calendar, handwritten

Dissertation on the Anglo Saxon Calendar, published 1895

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