Skip to main content

More on calendar changes and how they affect genealogists

Aug 02, 2018 09:10AM
Because Canada started out as a French colony then was ruled by England, their calendar dates are quite confusing. They followed the Gregorian calendar from 1605 - 13 Oct 1710. They reverted to Julian from 2 Oct 1710 - 2 Sep 1752 when England began to govern Canada. They returned to the Gregorian calendar on 14 Sep 1752 when England converted over and the rest of Canada used Gregorian dates as Europeans continued their settlement.

A special note for those of you with Swedish and Finnish ancestry: Sweden (and Finland, who was under Swedish rule at the time) decided to make a gradual change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. By dropping every leap year from 1700 through 1740 the eleven superfluous days would be omitted and from 1 Mar 1740, they would be in sync with the Gregorian calendar. (Resulting in being out of sync with everybody!) The year 1700 (which should have been a leap year in the Julian calendar) was not a leap year in Sweden.

However, by mistake 1704 and 1708 became leap years. This left Sweden out of synchronization with both the Julian and the Gregorian world, so they decided to go back to the Julian calendar. In order to do this, they inserted an extra day in 1712, making that year a double leap year. As a result, February 1712 had 30 days in Sweden.

In 1753, Sweden changed to the Gregorian calendar by dropping 11 days like everyone else. Finland was ceded by Sweden to Russia in 1809 which was still in Julian time. They finally obtained independence in 1918 and adopted the Gregorian calendar, however, Finland's earlier records are dated with both Julian and Gregorian dates.

One of the most difficult things to deal with when using parish registers is that event dates are many times listed as the feast day associated with the date. There are many “fixed” holiday/feast days such as Christmas which is always December 25; however, you will see such entries as “dom 3 p. Trin” meaning third Sunday after Trinity feast day. These feast days are moveable for the most part since most are based around Easter.

Since the ecclesiastical calendar is based on lunar rather than solar cycles, certain key holidays (feasts) occur on different days each year. The method of calculating these feasts has also changed since the council of Nicea (325 A.D.). In the past, you must have access to a book with tables to find out what the date was, but now some feast day calculators are available online.

A pretty comprehensive list of Feast days and their history and origins is available at: http://www.wf-f.org/A-ZPray.html

Feast Day calculators: http://www.smart.net/~mmontes/ec-cal.html http://almanac.oremus.org/easter/