AOH :: 1752DATE.TXT|
An explanation for why and how the calendar changed in 1752
BBS: QUANTUM LEAP BBS 000-000-0000
Date: 12-26-91 ( 8:58) Number: 8281
To: ALL Refer#: NONE (Msg #93 of 200)
From: JEFF MURPHY Read: NO
Subj: Understanding dates Status: PUBLIC MSG
Conf: f_genealog (34) Direction: FORWARD (Read)
Q: When were September, October, November, and December the 7th, 8th, 9th, and
A: Before 1752!
Now that I have your attention, the following is from Donald Lines Jacobus'
"Dates and the Calendar":
"There is one technical matter that affects dates and needs to be studied in
some detail if the genealogist is to understand and properly interpret the Old
Style dates; this is the important calendar change of 1752. As few things are
more confusing to the inexperienced searcher, a complete explanation of it
will be given.
"The Julian calendar was used throughout the Middle Ages in Europe. Its
inaccuracy amounted to about three days in every four centuries. By the time
the Gregorian Calendar (named after Pope Gregory XIII) was adopted in 1582, cal
lendar dates were ahead of actual time by ten days. Since actual time is the
time it takes the earth for one complete revolution about the sun (a year), if
the calendar had been left uncorrected, in the course of centuries the present
summer months would have come in the winter, and vice versa.
"Although the Roman Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582,
the conservatism of the English, and the fact that the new calendar was
sponsored by a *Pope*, delayed the acceptance of it in Great Britain and her
colonies until after the passage of an Act of Parliament in 1751. By this
time, the old calendar was eleven days ahead of sun time, so the Act provided
that in 1752, the second day of September should be followed by the fourteenth
day of September. In other words, what would have been September 3rd was
called the 14th, exactly eleven days being thus dropped out of the year.
"The cause of the error was the addition of a day to the calendar each fourth
year (Leap Year). This very nearly made the average year correspond with sun
time, but not quite. In every 400 years, as above stated, the calendar went
three days ahead of sun time. The dropping of the eleven days in 1752 brought
the calendar back into harmony with sun time; and to provide against a
recurrance of the trouble, it was also provided that on the even centuries, no
Leap Year day should be added except in a century divisible by 400. Thus 1800
and 1900 were not Leap Years, but the year 2000 will be. In this way, in the
400 years beginning with 1752, there will be three days less than there were
in each 400 years preceding 1752, hence the old error will not be repeated.
"So little did the people understand the need for the calendar revision, that
an angry mob gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, demanding that the
eleven days filched out of their lives be restored to them. Actually, calling
the third day of September the fourteenth day did not deprive any person of
eleven days of his life, any more than changing a man's name from Bill to Tom
would make him a different person. The real effect was to make every person
born on or before 2 Sept. 1752 eleven days older (by the new calendar) than
the record of his birth (in the Old Style) would indicate. A child born on 2
Sept. 1752 (the last day of the Old Style) would be, by the calendar, twelve
days old on the following day, 14 Sept. 1752 (the first day of the New Style).
"People do not like to be considered older than they really are, not even
eleven days older. It was natural that those living in 1752 should "rectify"
their birth dates. George Washington was born 11 Feb 1731/2. In 1752 the
calendar change automatically made him eleven days older, so like most men of
his generation, he rectified his birth date, making it 22 Feb 1732. The
latter is the date on which he *would have been born if* the New Style
Calendar had been in effect in 1732 - which it was not.
"Although it was (and is) incorrect to change the dates prior to September
1752 into New Style, it was done to such an extent by those living in 1752
that the genealogist has to make allowance for it. Suppose, for example, that
a group of brothers and sisters were born before the calendar change, and in
the town records the Old Style dates were therefore used in entering their
births. The first child was born, let us say, 25 May 1743. Now, after all
the children had been born, the parents bought a Bible, say about 1765, and
entered in it their own marriage and the births of their children, giving *New
Style* dates for *all* the children, including those born before 1752 whose
birth-days should properly have been entered Old Style. As a result, we find
that the eldest child (whose birth in the contemporary town records had been
entered as 25 May 1743) was entered in the Bible as born 5 June 1743. Both
dates are correct, but the former is the date that *ought* to be used, unless
the latter has the words "New Style" added to indicate that it is a
"A further effect of this change must be mentioned. When a man died after
1752, assuming that he was born before Sept. 1752, and his age at death was
stated exactly in years, months and days, the resultant date of birth (figured
from the age at death) is the New Style date of birth, and therefore eleven day
ays later than the recorded Old Style date of birth.
"For example, Ephraim Burr, by his gravestone, died 29 Apr 1776 aged 76 years
and 13 days. Subtracting the age gives us 16 Apr 1700 for his birth, but of
course to get the Old Style date then in use we must subtract eleven days
more. His birth was not recorded, but he was *baptized* 14 Apr. 1700, two
days before his New Style date of birth. After subtracting the eleven days,
we find that his real date of birth, in accordance with the Old Style calendar
then in use, was 5 Apr. 1700, which was nine days *before* he was baptized.
Obviously he could not have been born two days *after* baptism, which is the
result we get if we fail to make allowances for the calendar change."
"One other change was made in 1752, and that was the date of beginning of the
New Year. It is understood by everyone that between one spring and the next a
year has elapsed, similarly between one autumn and the next. But when we
assign numbers to the years for convenience in referring to them, it is
necessary to begin the new year on a particular day. The succession of
seasons and years is entirely natural, caused by the orbit of the earth about
the sun. But selecting one certain day on which to start a new year is an
artificial and arbitrary thing. Consequently, various peoples in various ages
have celebrated different New Year's Days. Some of the ancient races ended
their year with a Harvest Festival, and the Jews still retain that season.
Others began the year with the Vernal Equinox, and since Easter fell near that
season, the date quite generally used for the religious New Year's Day by
Christians was 25 March. There was no uniformity in the early centuries, and
some began the year on 25 December, the traditional birthday of Christ.
"The only dates for New Year's Day which were in use in American colonial days
among the English settlers were 25 March and 1 January. The latter was the
beginning of the legal year, while the former, as we have seen, had more
religious significance. The Act of Parliament in 1751 established 1 January as
New Year's Day for 1752 and subsequent years. Thereafter, we are not bothered
by the confusion that existed when the year had two possible beginnings.
"Now this change did not, like the dropping of eleven days, have any effect on
the ages of persons then living. This will be seen if we suppose that it
should be decided hereafter to celebrate the Fourth of July on Armistice Day.
A person born 4 May would still be born on 4 May; and when New Year's Day was
shifted from 25 March to 1 January, it did not affect the birthday of a man
born on 4 May. His birthday was still 4 May, Old Style, or 15 May, New Style.
"Some have misunderstood the effects of the change in New Year's Day, and have
supposed that it caused a difference of nearly three months in people's ages.
When the names of the months of birth were entered, such a notion is
unthinkable. [However,] Before 1700, the early recorders sometimes used the
*number* of the month instead of its *name*. This was the practice of the
Quakers, and occasionally survived until a later period. Of course, March was
then numbered as the first month, since New Year's Day fell in it, and dates
before the 25th was considered as belonging to the first month, as well as
dates after the 25th. April was the second month, and May the third. The
early Quaker records were often very precise, stating that an event occurred
'on the 10th of the 5th month which is called July.'
"When the *number* of the month was stated in any record prior to 1752, the
genealogist should reckon March as the first month, and February as the 12th.
"If a record states that John Jones was born on the 10th of the fifth month,
1710, this must be Old Style, and means that he was born in July. After 1752,
July became the seventh instead of the fifth month, but this does not affect
the fact that John Jones was born in July.
"Before 1752, there is likely to be some confusion with regard to dates
between 1 January and 24 March, unless we know what New Year's Day a
particular recorder used. It is apparent that if the year began 25 March, a
man born on 20 February was born before the new year began, hence a year
earlier than it would be by New Style. If 1710 began on 25 March, then a man
born on 20 February following was born in 1710, since 1711 did not begin until
the next month. Dates between 1 January and 24 March fell in the preceding
year if Old Style was used; but if New Style was used, this threw all dates
after 1 January into the new year.
"The only problem in this connection is the *year* in which a man was born,
and we always run the chance of an error of *exactly a year* if we do not know
which calendar the recorder used. Back of 1700, we can usually assume that
the year began on 25 March, and this is true of most church registers until
1752. But after 1700, the use of 1 January was gradually coming into favor,
especially in legal documents and town records.
"Careful recorders used a double date, and when this was done all confusion or
uncertainty is eliminated. George Washington was born 11 Feb 1721/2, which
means that the year was still 1731 if the New Year was reckoned as not
beginning until 25 March, but that the year was already 1732 if it had begun 1
January. That is, it was 1731 Old Style, or 1732 New Style. Genealogists
should always copy the double date when it is given in the records, for the
single date is an uncertain one. The date 11 Feb. 1731, Old Style, is
identical with 22 Feb. 1732, New Style."
Even after the change in 1752, English ministers often used the abbreviations
"7-ber", "8-ber", "9-ber", and "10-ber" for September, October, November, and
December. Hope you found this interesting!
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