Cal­en­dar changes af­fect ge­neal­o­gists

Serve Daily - - GINNY’S GENEALOGICAL GEMS - By Ginny Ack­er­son for Serve Daily

Did you know that the cal­en­dar we use is not the same cal­en­dar that your an­ces­tors used? Have you run into dates in your re­search that just don’t make sense? It may be be­cause of the change in cal­en­dars.

Cal­en­dars and the cal­cu­la­tion of time have been in­flu­enced over the years by dif­fer­ent cul­tures and be­liefs. Be­cause of this, dates are not uni­form and have changed as a re­sult of mor­ph­ing po­lit­i­cal pow­ers and cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion. This af­fects ge­neal­o­gists be­cause dates changed when cal­en­dars did.

The Ju­lian cal­en­dar was in­tro­duced by Julius Cae­sar in 45 B.C.E. Be­fore the Ju­lian cal­en­dar was in­tro­duced, priests in the Ro­man Em­pire ex­ploited the cal­en­dar for po­lit­i­cal ends, in­sert­ing days and even months into the cal­en­dar to keep the politi­cians they fa­vored in of­fice. Tired of the chaos that this un­de­pend­able sys­tem even­tu­ally gave rise to, Julius Cae­sar de­ter­mined to put the long-abused cal­en­dar in or­der. The Ju­lian cal­en­dar is still in use in some coun­tries to­day but has been re­placed by the Gre­go­rian cal­en­dar.

The Gre­go­rian cal­en­dar was pro­posed by Aloy­sius Lil­ius, a physi­cian, and sanc­tioned by Pope Gre­gory XIII to cor­rect for er­rors in the Ju­lian Cal­en­dar. It was de­creed by the Pope in a pa­pal bull on Fe­bru­ary 24, 1582. Though Pope Gre­gory's re­form was en­acted in the Catholic Church, the bull had no author­ity be­yond the Catholic Church and the Pa­pal States. The changes which he was propos­ing were changes to the civil cal­en­dar over which he had no author­ity. The changes re­quired adop­tion by the civil au­thor­i­ties in each coun­try to have le­gal ef­fect. Most Catholic coun­tries adopted the new cal­en­dar in the 1580s but it took un­til 1929 be­fore the ma­jor­ity of the world had ac­cepted it. This can cause con­fu­sion to a re­searcher be­cause peo­ple can ap­pear to die be­fore they were born, or in Or­tho­dox coun­tries, they may have two dif­fer­ent birth dates!

Dif­fer­ent ar­eas in what is now the United States changed at dif­fer­ent times. The Eastern se­aboard (which in­cludes Mas­sachusetts, Maine, Con­necti­cut, New York, Rhode Is­land, New Hamp­shire, Ver­mont, Penn­syl­va­nia, Mary­land, Delaware, Vir­ginia, North and South Carolina and Ge­or­gia) changed in Septem­ber of 1752. The Mis­sis­sippi val­ley changed in De­cem­ber 1582. Texas, Florida, Cal­i­for­nia, Ne­vada, Ari­zona, New Mex­ico changed in Oc­to­ber 1582. Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon adopted the new cal­en­dar in 1752. Alaska did not switch over un­til Oc­to­ber 1867 when it be­came part of the USA.

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