DEVON-L ArchivesArchiver > DEVON > 1999-06 > 0929554680
From: "Bill Farrant" <>
Subject: Re: Parish register dates
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 10:38:00 -0700
The information I have is that the change from the Julian to
Gregorian calendar was declared in 1582 by the pope but not adopted by
some countries until later, England did not adopt the new calendar until
1752 as John mentioned.
The main reason for the change was to adjust for an error in the
measurement of time, but one additional change was when the new year
started, in the Julian calendar the year began at the first of April. I
assume the pope changed the start of the new year to January thinking
that it was more suiting for a new year to begin just after the
celebration of the birth of Christ.
In any case, the result is that when you see a date such as February
1710, it could be either 1710 or 1711 depending on who made the entry.
If it's a government document, chances are that it is a Julian date,
making it 1711 by our calendar. But the general public started adopting
the Gregorian calendar for their own use long before the government did,
so things such as letters and even some parish records could contain the
Gregorian date, making it 1710 as stated. In fact, it's my understanding
that in some parish records you can find both dates, the Julian entered
by the church official, and the Gregorian entered by a witness to the
event being documented.
Naturally, the further back you go towards 1582, the more likely it
is that the date you are looking at is a Julian date, oweing to the fact
that it takes time for people to change. Something I find interesting
here is that even then the actions of the government lagged behind the
general population, it appears to me that the government only decided to
change when they realized they had been left behind by most of the
world, and even their own people.