Carol Sanderson, Editor
Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor
Changes That are Road Blocks
Things to watch for during your research. Some of these have been discussed before on the bulletin boards. However, I feel that it is important to review and remind all of us who research our families about these once again.
We should be very much aware that boundaries move. Not only do towns change in size and therefore change boundaries, this also happens with counties, states, and yes in Europe and other continents the countries change in size and names. One néeds to know what these boundaries were at the time of the events we are researching.
During the past couple of weeks, I have been working on some families that tradition says were from one place. So far tradition has been correct but at a certain point in time the area where these families were found belonged to another state. As the area became settled, parts of this state broke away from the parent state and were accepted by the newly formed state. These were rather large in size so they too became subject to change and partition.
Records say that the elder member of one family was from another state. I believe that I am finding that this person was in the same location all the time. I also believe that land records are going to support my findings.
Another change that occurs is that of date. Now this was caused by a change in calendars. Calendars have had an interesting history. In the early times of man, time was marked so that planting and harvesting could be on at the correct times and later civilizations such as the Egyptians, Aztecs, Chinese and others developed calendars to be able to predict the seasons. Julius Caesar hired an Egyptian (the Egyptians having the most accurate calendar) to devise a new calendar for the Roman Empire. The Julian calendar, named for Caesar had 12 months and 365 days and to account for the miss 1/4 day each year implemented an additional day every four years to compensate for the discrepancy. Thus we got our leap year. There was still a slight inaccuracy in the Julian calendar but it was ignored until 1582 when it was ten days behind. Those ten days put the calendar and the seasons out of sync so to speak. The Catholic Church was having problems getting Easter to be put where it was supposed to be. Pope Gregory XIII initiated a change in October of 1582. He subtracted ten days to get back on track with the earth's revolutions. He also changed the rule as to how leap year was calculated by changing the rules about century years. Under this change, if the century year was divisible evenly by 400 it was a leap year. Thus the year 2000 was a leap year but the year 2100 will not be a leap year. This new calendar was to go into effect on October 4th. It caused some rioting by peasants. Mainly the Catholic countries of Europe adopted it. Little by little other European countries accepted it. However, Great Britain held out until 1752. By that time they were eleven days out of sync. They chose to drop eleven days in the month of September. Thus September of that year for Britain and her colonies had September 2 followed by September 14. England also decided that January 1 would be the day the new year started instead of March 25 as it had been.
How does this affect us a genealogist. In our research when we find ancestors back in those times the dates are expressed by what we call double dating. That is for instance Washington's birthday would be expressed February 22, 1731/2. Not everyone did that. William Dollarhide states that "For genealogist researching British records before 1752, any date on a document and dated Jan 1st through March 24th is one year off"1. Be aware, also, that there were others who settled here who were using the Gregorian calendar long before the English and this would affect their record keeping. There are a lot of fine lines to be found in this area. I would make the suggestion that if you find yourself working in this area that you do some reading on this subject.
Reference: 1 Dollarhide, William, It's About Time Calendars and Genealological Dates; Genealogy Bulletin, A Heritage Quest Publication, Volume 15
Number 2 Issue 50, March/April 1999. pp 1 and 6-13.
When I took the beginning genealogy class years ago, one of the lessons was to make sure you are not re-researching the same data others have already
researched. How do you find the research others have done on your surname? When I started there were thousands of people doing surname newsletters.
They would collect every scrap of information on that surname, census, tax lists, bible records, obituaries, etc., print them up and mail them out to the
members of the Family Association and to some libraries including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.