Determining dates given as "n"th month when year began on March 25th

+4 votes
101 views

If someone died in Colonial New England before the calendar switch in 1752 and the death date is given, say, as "first day of the second month", is the second month then April?  How then would someone write "March 1, 1700" in this fashion?  "First day of the thirteenth month in 1699"?  (Maybe nobody used the day number/month number description for dates March 1- March 24 because it would just be too confusing?  I've never seen a date in that range given in this fashion...)

Note: the original version of this question was written in terms of Julian vs. Gregorian calendar rather than directly addressing reckoning from the first day of the year.  Thank you to Ben Buckner for pointing out the distinction.

in The Tree House by Barry Smith G2G6 Pilot (217k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Like you, I don't think I've ever seen a date from before the Julian-Gregorian changeover that used the month number format and fell between March 1st and March 24th. Since March was the "first month" in the numbered month format and March 1-24 were the last days of the old calendar year, March dates could be especially confusing.

I have, however, seen a couple of dates from before the changeover that used the name of the month of March and included the double-year date, when the double-year format wasn't found elsewhere in the same records. That made me think that people were aware that March was particularly confusing.
But it is widely assumed that before the changeover, "second month" refers to April?
Usually - most of the time I've seen it, it was off from the modern reckoning by 2 months, and usually in line with the Roman reckoning (which has March as the first month). If you see it in mid 1600s English parish records, it might be a little idiosyncratic though.

2 Answers

+3 votes
It doesn't depend on Julian vs. Gregorian, it depends on when the new year was reckoned. You have to know the historical context to determine that.
by Anonymous Buckner G2G6 Mach 5 (51.9k points)
I should have said my interest is in Colonial New England, in which context, as far as I know, the only change in reckoning came when the British Empire switched calendars in 1752.  Is that not correct?  So between 1620 and the 1752 calendar switch, in British Colonial America, would "second month" refer to April?  And how would a person in that context write "March 1" in that other style?
With the Quakers, March was the 1st month, so March 1,1700 (NS) is 1st day of the first month in the year 1699 (Quaker OS).

https://www.swarthmore.edu/friends-historical-library/quaker-calendar
Though if you want the exact date by the modern calendar, you have to add the 11 day Julian/Gregorian difference too.
Genealogists don't make the 11-day "correction."
And if the record was made by a non-Quaker?
So 1 Mar 1700 (NS-Gregorian) is really 19th day of the 12th month of 1699 (OS-Julian) (19 Feb 1699), but conventionally people only change the year.
I'd generally assume that the Quaker convention is the same as most people used, but I tend to like to look through other records in the same context to see what that particular clerk is using. Sometimes you find that they didn't all get the same memo.
1 Mar 1700 is, incidentally, the first day that requires an 11 day correction, since the 1700 leap day is one of the ones omitted in the Gregorian calendar.
If you aren't dealing with Quaker or other Dissenter/extremist Puritan-type records, one thing to watch out for are abbreviations like VIIber, VIIIber , IXber/VIIIIber, and Xber (7ber, 8ber, 9ber, and 10ber). Those mean September, October, November, and December, not 7 mo, 8 mo, 9 mo. and 10 mo, though pre-reform they're identical.
+2 votes
March was Month 1.  So the 28th or 29th of Month 12 (Feb) was followed by the 1st of Month 1 (of the same year).  Who says you can't end a year in the middle of month 1?
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (568k points)
Me!  I do!  That's ridiculous!  (But I guess even ridiculous depends on context...)

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