Calendar Changes (National Institute)
The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice by Louise St Denis, Brenda Dougall Merriman and Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
This section describes the changes that were made in England in 1752. The dates and variations for other countries are ably explained by Clifford Webb in the 1989 book Dates and Calendars for the Genealogist and Jane Cavell takes a look at Internet sources for dates, calendars and timelines in her 2003 Family Tree Magazine article, “Internet Sources: Dates and Calendars” (vol. 19 no. 6) .
Old Style and New Style
The Old Style Calendar began on Lady Day, 25th March, thus in 1750 and before, the year ran as follows:
25-31 March, April – Dec, Jan – 24 Mar.
Month 1 was March, and '7ber' was September, '8ber' October, '9ber' November', '10ber' December.
In 1752 Britain changed to the New Style Calendar with 1st Jan as New Year's Day, but this change had taken place earlier in other countries such as Scotland in 1600.
1751 was a short year running from 25 Mar to 31 Dec only, because 1752 started on 1st Jan.
The correct way to describe a date in the 'overlap' period of 1 Jan to 24 Mar in any year before 1751 is to state the Old Style/New Style e.g. 1712/13 which means:
- "24 Jan 1712 in the register is what we would now call 24 Jan 1713"'
Julian and Gregorian Calendars and "The Lost 11 days"
The Julian Calendar used from Roman Times was based on a 365.25-day year, there being an extra day every 4th year to account for the 0.25 factor.
However, astronomically the year is actually 365.2422 days long. This meant that by 1582 the Julian Calendar was 10 days out of synchronism with the seasons. This was beginning to make life difficult in an agricultural economy. Hence Pope Gregory instituted two reforms: firstly 10 days were omitted (coping with past errors), and secondly, in future the last years of centuries (i.e. 1600, 1700, etc.) would only be Leap Years if their first two digits were divisible by four (hence ensuring accuracy from that time forward.)
The Catholic countries all changed around 1582, Protestant ones were reluctant to follow suit because it was a Catholic innovation. Britain eventually changed over in 1752; some countries held out longer, for example Russia until 1917.
As Europe had changed over much earlier, Britain was now 11 days out of sync, thus it was pronounced that Sep 2 would be followed by Sep 14. According to popular legend, this caused riots in the streets because the church had taught of a pre-ordained date of death. People shouted, “Give us back our 11 days”!
It was quite possible, and in fact common, for this situation to occur:
John SMITH married Jemima TADPOLE on 6 Apr 1721
Jemima, wife of John SMITH was buried on 2 Feb 1721.
(Because February came after April in those days, and she likely died in childbirth.)
In Rusper, Sussex on 26 Mar 1652 they buried Robert Chatfield who had died on 24 Mar 1651. No, he wasn’t excessively decayed because he only died two days before, that date being in the previous year.
However, be very wary of any research that quotes:
James WHITE married Phillis BLACK on 27 Feb 1751 or
Simon BLOGGS buried 5 Sep 1752
There were no such dates due to the short year in 1751 and the lost 11 days in 1752!
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