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England Orphan Trail: England Calendar Changes 1752

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England Project | England Orphaned Profiles Team | England Orphan Trail Resources 1700-1837 | England Orphan Trail: England Calendar Changes 1752

Copy this into your trail log for future reference: [[Space:England_Calendar_Changes_1752|England Calendar Changes 1752]]

This page is to help anyone working on English profiles to understand the calendar changes which happened in 1752 in Great Britain and its colonies.
Some worked examples are in each section.
Please send any feedback to Jo Fitz-Henry if anything is not clear or further explanation is required.

Contents

Summary

In 1752, two important changes happened in the English calendar. Although they happened in the same year, it is important not to get them confused.

  • 1. Great Britain and its colonies changed from the Julian calendar to the more accurate Gregorian calendar which most of Europe was already using. The Julian calendar which was in use up to September 1752 in England was behind the Gregorian calendar by eleven days.
At the changeover, Wednesday 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14 September 1752. No adjustment is made in Wikitree or any other history for these eleven days - they simply do not exist.
  • 2. The date for New Year's Day moved from 25 March to 1 January.
Before 1752, New Year's day was on the 25 March and is now known as Old Style (OS) New Year.
From 1752 onward, New Year's day was on 1 January and is known as New Style (NS) New Year.

No change was made to the number of days in a month, or the names of the months, or the number of days in a year.

  • 1750 ran from 25 March to 24 March (365 days)
  • 1751 ran from 25 March to 31 December (282 days)
  • 1752 started on 1 January, was a Leap Year, but lost 11 days (366-11=355 days)
  • 1753 Started on 1 January ended on 31 December (365 days)

(These changes were brought about by an Act of Parliament the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750. You can read the full text of the Act of Parliament here [1] and about the process in much more detail on its own Wikipedia page. [2])

1. Change from Julian to the Gregorian calendar

Up until 1582, the whole of Europe was using the inaccurate Julian calendar.
Pope Gregory XIII introduced the more accurate Gregorian calendar to Catholic Europe in October 1582 but it meant an adjustment of ten days to the actual date to make it work. [3]
Protestant countries in Europe initially refused to accept this more accurate but "Catholic" calendar. It meant there were two sets of dates being used across Europe depending which country you were in.
One by one European countries adopted the Gregorian calendar until only a handful, including England, were still using the old Julian calendar.

When Great Britain (and all its Dominions, which included the American Colonies) adopted the Gregorian Calendar in September 1752, there had to be an adjustment of eleven days to move to the new calendar.

What change was made?

Wednesday 2 September 1752 was followed directly by Thursday 14 September 1752. Remember - no adjustment is made in Wikitree or any other history for these eleven days - they simply do not exist.

How does that affect genealogists?

Unless you have an event in a very short time frame around these dates, the loss of eleven days will not make that much difference to your profiles.

Example 1 : I have found a baby recorded as born on Wednesday 2 September 1752 who died on Thursday 14 September 1752.

Enter these two dates as given in the records, but explain in the biography that the baby only lived for one day and the reason.

What if the records are wrong and a "missing date" is given?

Example 2 : I have found a record for baby born on the 3rd September 1752

If you find a date given from 3 September to 13 September 1752,

  • record the given date as it was written,
  • add the given date to a date field if appropriate,
  • note in the biography that this date did not exist in England for that year.

2. Change to the date of New Year

This is possibly a harder concept to get your head around than the loss of eleven days in the changeover from the Julian to Gregorian calendar, but if you are used to filling in British tax returns where the tax year starts on 6 April, you are halfway there! [2]

Historical background

The New Year in England traditionally started on 25 March, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary or "Lady Day". [4]

One of the changes introduced along with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in Europe in 1582 was the adoption of 1 January as New Year's day.
This "New Style" New Year was adopted haphazardly by countries across Europe and not always at the same time that the country adopted the Gregorian calendar.

In 1599, King James VI of Scotland proclaimed that the New Year in Scotland would henceforth start on 1 January from 1600. He did not adopt the Gregorian calendar change for Scotland. [5]
When James also became King James I of England in 1603, he did not change the New Year date in England from 25 March to "New Style" 1 January. From 1600 to 1752, England and Scotland had different starts to the New Year even though they were ruled over by the same monarch.
From 1600 onward, some records were "double dated" to reflect that the dates 1 January to 24 March could be shown in different years depending on what style of New Year you were using.

What part of the year is affected by dates being in different years?

In England, up until 1752, the months of January, February and most of March were a continuation of the previous year. The year changed on 25 March. ("Old Style" new year)
From 1752 in England, the year changed on 1 January. ("New Style" new year)

Up until 1752 in England there is an overlap period, with the New Style calendar apparently a year ahead until 24 March. On 25 March the Old Style New Year occurred and the two years were synchronised until 31 December.

We live in the world of New Style dates so it seems a bit strange to think of March being at the end of one year and beginning of another. Imagine our ancestors celebrating Christmas and thinking ‘Only another 3 months till the New Year’!
Whilst our ancestors regarded January to March as the last quarter of 1666, we think of it as the first quarter of 1667. It’s the same time period just with a different tag.

Why does this matter in genealogy?

Sometimes you see a record that you think cannot be true, such as a baby being born in October 1670 but also being buried in February 1670. This is when the three month overlap in the two styles of years can catch you out!
Our ancestors living in 1670 would have thought these events were entirely logical as they were used to the year turning on 25 March, so February 1670 would happen after October 1670.
However, February 1670 Old Style is actually February 1671 New Style, the year format we would recognise and now it makes sense to us too.

Unfortunately, when records are transcribed for the genealogy websites such as Ancestry and FamilySearch, there is no consistency in how the years are recorded.
You may be looking at an Old Style date or a New Style date. Not knowing which one it is may have a big impact on your research.
If possible, look at the original record and transcribe your dates in the "double dating" format to eliminate doubt for future readers.

Also be aware that the parish clerk may have been adopting the New Style new year before it officially happened. It is worth recording in the notes about the profile if you find this, to confirm your findings for a later researcher.

Parish register showing the New Style New year date being used too early (January 1731).

Conversely, some clerks "forgot" about the year change and you will still see some parish registers with double dating or even just Old Style New Year dates after 1752.

How do we write a date showing two different styles of years?

Double dating is writing the date to recognise this difference in viewpoint between ourselves, using New Style, and our ancestors, using Old Style. It only differs in those three months of the year, and only up to 1752.
For any date, it is only the year that is expressed in the two styles - the day and the month are exactly the same.
At the time when England was using Old Style and most of the rest of Europe (including Scotland) was using New Style, it was common to see contemporary documents also double dated.

Example 3 : I have a record for a baby baptised 3 March 1666 - how do I show this in the profile?

  • 3 March 1666 Old Style would be 3 March 1667 New Style. This is written as 3 March 1666/7 to show the two styles of years.
  • If the two years spanned the end of a decade, use the last two digits of the year when writing it down (for example 1669 and 1670 are written as 1669/70).
  • In the biography, always use double dating when appropriate (1 January - 24 March) in the years up to 1752 when the Old Style calendar was in use.
  • In the Date Fields on Wikitree, treat the date as though it was happening in the New Style calendar and enter the later year. Do not enter it as a combination of the two years with a / in the date. This will generate an error message.

Example 4 : I have a record that shows a burial on 3 April 1666 - how do I show this in the profile?

  • 3 April 1666 Old Style is the same as 3 April 1666 New Style. The new year has just happened in the Old Style calendar and now both calendars are synchronised. The year is 1666 whichever style of New Year is being used.
  • You do not need to show two years as they are both the same from 25 March to 31 December.
  • Enter the given year in the date field on Wikitree.

Where might I see "Double dating"?

The most common place to see double dating is in church records, where the parish clerk was accommodating the old and new styles of the New Year. You may also see it in legal documents and even occasionally on gravestones!

Gravestone of John Kingston showing double dating for 4 February 1701/2


Sources

  1. Full text of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750. Google books Accessed 2 June 2020. Fun fact: the Act is dated as 1750 but this is because it was proposed in February 1750 - which is actually February 1751 New Style!
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wikipedia contributors, "Calendar (New Style) Act 1750," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, link (accessed June 2, 2020).
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Gregorian calendar," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, link (accessed June 2, 2020).
  4. As England was an agricultural country, this date heralded the start of spring. It was also the date that farm rents were collected. It was one of the four Quarter Days in the year for financial reckonings court sittings and you will see these in old wills for when bequests were due to be paid:
    • March 25 - Lady Day or the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary
    • June 24 - the Feast of St John the Baptist (approximately midsummer)
    • September 29 - Michaelmas or The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels
    • December 25 - Christmas Day or The Feast of the Nativity
    Wikipedia contributors, "Quarter days," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, link (accessed June 2, 2020).
  5. New Year date change in Scotland in: National Records of Scotland help page. Accessed 2 June 2020. link




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