Old Style Dates

Some of the early dates on this website are shown in the form 23 March 1738/9. This is to show a date from the Julian Calendar, which was used in Britain up until 1752, when an Act of Parliament led to the country changing to the Gregorian Calendar which was already in use in most of Europe. Under the “old style” calendar, as it was referred to, the year began on 25 March, hence the date given above which was actually 23 March 1738, was followed by 24 March 1738 then 25 March 1739.

The more famous aspect of the change of calendar was the “loss” of eleven days in September 1752, so that 2 September 1752 was followed by 14 September 1752.

In the parish register for Didbrook, the first entry for 1752 (dated 2 February) is preceded by this summary of the change:

The Supputation of the Year in the Church of England did always begin March 25 but by an Act of Parliament passed last year for the Alteration of the Style the year is to begin on the first of January, and eleven days are cut off in September next to bring our reckoning of Time equal with other Countries in Europe.

An internet search will reveal more information on the background to the change, so we are not enlarging on it here. In regard to family history research, in parish registers it can intially be confusing to see entries for a year perhaps starting in April and ending in February or March. It is even more confusing in very small parishes where there might only be one or two entries in a year: if these entries are, say, in January and February and under the year 1748, it is not immediately apparent that the year was actually 1748/9, although some incumbents helpfully showed the year in this dual form.

Dual years in the register of St Botolph, Bishopgate

Dual years in the register of St Botolph, Bishopgate

Dual years are sometimes encountered on gravestones. Inside St Edward’s church in Stow-on-the-Wold, some old gravestones have been set into the floor. Amongst these we found sections of some naming the Pitmans, and bearing a dual date.

Gravestone-PhilipPitman-1723-4

The bottom line shows that Philip Pitman died in March 1723/4

Gravestone-SarahPitman-1732-3

Although very worn, this shows Sarah Pitman’s death as January 1732/3