ST. AUSTELL PARISH
THE CHANGE IN THE CALENDAR – 1752
and other interesting things regarding dating of records
written by Julia Mosman, OPC
While trying to pinpoint an exact date of birth, marriage, or death in searching British records, there are two traps for the unwary:
As background - Before 1582, the Julian Calendar was used throughout the Christian world. The calendar divided the year into 365 days, plus an extra day every fourth year. The year started on March 25, and ended on March 24. Then astronomers discovered that there was an error of eleven minutes a day, or three days every four hundred years. From 325 to 1582, that amounted to ten days in all. Therefore, Pope Gregory XIII decreed in 1582 that ten days be dropped from the calendar to bring Easter to the correct date, and that every four hundred years, Leap Year’s extra day should be omitted in a centennial year, when the first two digits cannot be divided by four without a remainder. (This means it was omitted in 1700, 1800, and 1900, but was not omitted in 2000. Great Britain did insert a leap year day into 1752, as it was divisible by 4.)
All Roman Catholic countries changed their calendars accordingly; Protestant
nations did so later, at various times. In the case of Great Britain, it was
170 years before the change was made.
These changes affected records in many ways. Some educated persons, believing the change should have been made in 1582, recorded a ‘double date’ – for instance, 7 January, 1687/88, indicating that while it was officially 1687, they considered it should have been 1688. This 'double dating' only applied to the periods of 1 Jan to 25 March, as the rest of the year was not in question.
Also, many parish registers show 17 August (O.S.) or 18 August (N.S.) - especially in the years 1751 and 1752. (O.S.= Old Style, N.S.= New Style.) The unwary researcher may not be consistent in noting their records, but it is essential to understand which dating system was used, and what possible changes/corrections might have been made in various records because of these changes.
Quakers almost exclusively used numbers for months. At times, they showed the number and name of the month, such as "4th month called June" or "the 10th day of the 10th month called December 1690." Any date in March was considered the first month. After 1752, Quakers adjusted to the calendar change by calling January the first month, February the second month, December the twelfth month, et cetera.
Quakers also wrote numbers in their meeting records, such as "3rd month" instead of May (before 1752, of course). Saying July (Julius), after Julius Caesar, or August, after the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, was considered too pagan or worldly.
Sunday was the first day of the week, Monday the second day,
and so forth.
An example of an early Quaker date might be: 4/17/1710 (with 4 being the fourth month). This date should be interpreted as 17 June 1710.
Many mentions of persons in older records show dec'd, or decembered. This indicates they died, and has nothing to do with the month of December per se.
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