Thursday, January 23, 2020

George Harland/Harlan, 1650-1714, Quaker Yeoman Farmer

Kennett Monthly Meeting, Pennsylvania, record of baptism of George Harlan
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George Harland, my 9th great grandfather, was the second son of James Harland, a yeoman* and a member of the Episcopal Church in Bishoprick, nigh Durham, England. James was born around 1625, and lived his entire life in that area of England. While he was likely married, I have no idea who his wife was as only James is listed in the baptism record of his three sons, Thomas, George, and Michael  -- I don’t know if there were any other children in the family. Thomas was born about 1649 (m (1). Katharine Bullock [?-1690], April 7, 1680 (7, 2 mo, 1680) by ceremony of Friends at Sego, Armagh, Ireland; m. (2) Alice Foster [?-1702], Armagh, Ireland, dd. ?). George was the second son, born in approximately 1650 and baptized on March 11, 1650 ** (11 First 1650) in the Episcopal Church; And Michael born about 1653 (m. Dina Dixson in Pennsylvania, dd. 1728). All three brothers were baptized in at the Episcopal Church at Monkwearmoth, Durham, England.

Climbing My Family Tree: St. Peters Church & Monkwearmouth Monastery, built 675 AD. Public Domain.
St. Peters Church & Monkwearmouth Monastery, built 675 AD. Public Domain.
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George lived with his parents in Bishoprick, nigh Durham, England until he reached adulthood. When he reached adulthood, he and his brothers moved, with some others, to County Down, Ireland. I have been unable to find anything that says definitively whether he converted to Quakerism while in England or after he moved to Ireland. I know that he was a member of the Quaker meeting in Ireland. However, the move to Ireland would make sense if they had converted to Quakerism while in England.

The Religious Society of Friends (commonly known as the Quakers), was founded by George Fox around the time that George Harland was born. By 1660, it is estimated there were 50,000 Quakers in England. Among the new and radical spiritual beliefs held by the Quakers were that a direct experience with God was available to all people without mediation through hired clergy; that God could move anyone to speak and that all Christians could and should be ministers, including women, but they had no official pastors or priest; and that the sacraments were purely spiritual and they did not take physical communion with wine and bread or baptize with water. These views were not popular with either Catholic or Protestant clergy. The Friends also annoyed civil authorities and the upper classes with their belief in the equality of all. The Quakers lived this belief by refusing to use honorifics in addressing others (addressing all simply by their name), refusing to salute others, and refusing to remove their hats before a social superior among other things. They also refused to take oaths, because they believed people should always tell the truth, which left the King doubting their loyalty since they refused to swear fealty to him. Additionally, the Quakers refused to pay tithes to the established church, which were required of all people.

The century before the establishment of the Quakers was a time of religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, starting with Henry VIII’s creation of the Church of England and split from the Catholic Church, because he wanted to get divorced, and followed by alternating Protestant and Catholic monarchs who, supported by the Church of England (also known as the Anglican Church), encouraged persecution of religions other than their own, and culminating in the Thirty Years War and the English Civil War both of which were rooted in religious differences. It was not a time of religious tolerance. Between 1661 and 1664, Parliament passed a series of laws which basically made it illegal to be a practicing Quaker. For the next two decades Quakers were heavily persecuted, while they persevered in practicing their faith.  Fox stated that there were seldom less than a thousand Quakers imprisoned during these years (total imprisoned 13,562, plus 338 deaths and 200 deported as slaves to the West Indies); Fox himself spent five years in jail.

Quakers had been moving to Ireland since the 1650s, trying to escape the persecution by the Anglican church and Parliament, with a second wave occurring in the 1670’s. The first Quaker meeting in Ireland was held in Lurgan, in County Armagh, in 1655. It’s quite possible that George Harlan and his brothers chose to move to the Lurgan area because they knew of the number of Quakers already in the area. They moved to County Down, probably to the Parish of Donaghcloney,  which immediately abuts the neighboring parishes of Shankill and Seagoe in County Armagh in northern Ireland (at that point Ireland was unified, northern is just a geographical description). While I don’t know exactly when George moved to Ireland, I know he was there by 1678.

While living in County Down, George Harlan met Elizabeth Duck, of Lurgan, who was 10 years younger than him having been born in 1660. Elizabeth and George married, by ceremony of Friends, on November 27, 1678 (twenty seventh day of ninth month, 1678), in the house of Marke Wright, in the parish of Shankill, County of Armagh. Present among the witnesses was George’s brother Thomas.

Climbing My Family Tree IQuaker Marriage Record for George Harland & Elizabeth Duck (Nov 27, 1678))
Quaker Marriage Record for Geoge Harland & Elizabeth Duck (Nov 27, 1678)
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Part 1 -Transcription of
Quaker Marriage Record for Geoge Harland & Elizabeth Duck (Nov 27, 1678)
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Part 2 -Transcription of
Quaker Marriage Record for Geoge Harland & Elizabeth Duck (Nov 27, 1678), witnesses.
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George and Elizabeth had nine children, the first four of which were born in Ireland: Ezekiel [b.  August 16, 1679 (6, 16, 1679); d. June 15, 1731 (4, 15, 1731); m. Mary Bezer and Ruth Buffington]; Hannah [b. April 4, 1681 (2, 4, 1681); d. ?; m. Samuel Hollingsworth]; Moses [b. February 20, 1683, (12, 20, 1683); d. 1747; m. Margaret Ray]; Aaron [b. December 24, 1685 (10, 24, 1685); d. November 1732 (9 mo. 1732); m. Sarah Heald].

In moving to Ireland, George did not escape the official persecution of Quakers which also spread to Ireland. Many Quakers in the area had their goods and crops confiscated, or were imprisoned, for nonpayment of tithes to the Church of Ireland or other “failures to conform”. We know that George refused to pay the required tithe to the Church. The “tithe”, was essentially a church tax and was to be a tenth of one’s income; it was the main source of income for the official Church. Quakers objected to the tithe on two levels, believing in their own practices that spiritual guidance and worship should be free, and, believing that as non-Anglicans they should not have to support the Anglican Church. Because George refused to pay the required tithe, the government forcibly seized what they determined to be an equivalent amount of his crops in lieu of payment. Noted in A Great Cry of Oppression by William Stockdale, in 1680, “George Harland, of County Down had taken from him in Tithe, by Daniel MacConnell, twelve stooks and a half of oats, three stooks and a half of barley, and five loads of hay, all worth ten shillings and ten pence."  At FindMyPast(.)com I found the original Quaker Meeting record of that confiscation. I also found that George was subject to nearly yearly confiscations. In 1682, George Harland “had taken from him for a tithe by Thomas Usher & Donald McConnol four loads of hay, sixteen stooks and a half of wheat & twenty-four stooks of oats, all worth one pound thirteen shillings six pence.” In 1683, he “had taken from him for tithe by Donnoll Mark Connoll and Johns Spont, fishmongers, two loads of hay out of his hay fields, worth two shillings.” In 1684, George “had taken from him by Hugh MacConnoll for the said priest, one stook, two sheafs of [?], eighteen stooks, nine sheafs of oats, two stooks and a half of barley, and two loads of hay. All worth 15 shillings, four pence. All on account of tithe which for conscience’s sake they could not pay.” I’ve no reason to believe the tithe confiscations ceased in 1684 but these are the records that remain. It had to be aggravating to lose so much of his farming labor’s product every year to a support religion of which he was not a member. I don’t know whether he was ever imprisoned for his refusal but if he had been it could explain why there are no more confiscation records for the next two years.

Wheat sheaves near King's Somborne, England arranged into a stook.- Trish Steel [CC BY-SA ]

About this time George would have heard about William Penn’s new colony, Pennsylvania, in the New World. In 1681, King Charles II gave over 45,000 square miles of his American land holdings to Penn to pay the debts the king owed to Penn's deceased father, and in 1682 Penn obtained from the Duke of York both a 10,000 year lease and an absolute deed of Feoffment (sale of real property) for the town of New Castle and a 12-mile circle around it, and a 10,000 year lease and an absolute deed of Feoffment for all of the land south of the twelve mile circle down to Cape Henlopen. This land included the present-day states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Penn planned to found a colony based on Quaker principles, a "Holy Experiment" as he called it, and implementing a new form of more egalitarian government. The colonial government, established in 1682 by Penn's Frame of Government, consisted of an appointed governor, the proprietor (William Penn), a 72-member Provincial Council, and a larger representative Provincial Assembly. Starting in 1681 broadsheets promoting the venture were distributed widely at Quaker meetings in Ireland. Quakers began moving to the colony.  As more people moved to the Colony, letters from the pioneers were sent home to Ireland, describing their life in America, were passed around at Quaker Meetings. The idea of a new start in a friendly land led George and Michael Harlan to think that their future lay across the ocean in the New World.

Some Irish Quakers went out to Penn’s Colony as indentured servants, selling themselves into temporary servitude usually for about four years in order to pay the costs of their transportation to Pennsylvania. Some, known as redemptioners, made agreements with the shipmaster to be sold after their arrival. The redemptioners could not be sold out of Pennsylvania without their free consent given before a judge. At the end of their service, if their behavior had been good, they received a suit of clothes, a set of tools for the field in which they were engaged, and a sum of money. Those that came over with the first purchasers of land in the colony were allowed by Penn to receive fifty acres of land at a rent, paid to Penn, of a half-penny per acre per year. Due to harsh treatment and dissatisfaction with the conditions of servitude, the redemptioners often ran away, and newspapers of the time were full of advertisements of rewards for the return of their indented servants, and much of the business of the provincial courts was hearing complaints of masters and servants. Unlike the redemptioners, the Harland brothers had enough money to purchase land in Penn’s colony before they left Ireland, but there are indications that George employed indented servants in his household in the New World.  

Province of PA - No machine-readable author provided.
Kmusser assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA]

In early 1687, George Harland, his wife, his four eldest children, and his brother Michael left from Belfast on a ship for Pennsylvania (his brother Thomas remained in Ireland). In 1686, George had bought lands in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, known as the Lower Three Counties, in an area now belonging to New Castle, Delaware. Other land in the area was bought at that time in the name of his father James, and brother Thomas, although neither ever moved to America. They settled on the west side of the Brandywine Creek in the Christiana Hundred section of Newcastle county, near the current town of Centerville. After moving to Pennsylvania, George and his brother dropped the D from their last name. Here, George and Elizabeth had five more children: Rebecca [b. October 17, 1688 (8, 17, 1688); d. October 17, 1775 (8, 17, 1775); m. William Webb]; Deborah [b. October 28, 1690 (8, 28, 1690); d. ??; m. Joshua Calvert]; James [b. October 19, 1692 (8, 19, 1692); d. ??; m. Elizabeth  ??]; Joshua [b. January 15, 1696 (11, 15, 1696); d. July 1744 (5 Mo. 1744); m. Mary Heald].

Initially, they belonged to and, in the Summer, attended the Newark Meeting in the Lower Three Counties. However, George and his family were too far from the Newark Meeting for regular and punctual attendance, especially in the winter, given the dangerousness of fording the river and made a request on behalf of his neighbors and himself for a Meeting beyond the Brandywine to be established for that reason; the formation of the Centre Meeting was granted in what is now Centerville, New Castle county, Delaware but was then the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania. For several years they held a meeting in homes in their community, often at George Harlan’s home.  George was put on a committee with Thomas Hollingsworth, Alphonsus Kirk, and Samuel Groves “to take the oversight of the building of ye Centre Meeting House requesting ye with all convenient speed to let out ye work to some workmen in order it may be more speedily done and return an acctt to ye next meeting how they proceed.” However, the Meeting House was not built until 1711.

In 1695, George Harlan was elected to the Provincial Assembly from New Castle County. Provincial Assembly elections were held annually in colonial Pennsylvania, and Assembly representatives were elected to serve a one year term. When William Penn formed the colony’s government, he created the Frame of 1682, which described a parliament consisting of two houses. The upper house, or the Provincial Council, consisted of 72 members who were the first fifty purchasers of 5,000 acres or more in the colony and had the exclusive power to propose legislation. They were also authorized to nominate all officers in church and state and supervise financial and military affairs through committees. The lower house, or the Provincial Assembly, consisted of smaller landowners. It had no power to initiate legislation but could accept or reject the council's legislative proposal only. However, in the first meeting of the Assembly the Frame of 1682 was voted down. When the Assembly convened in 1682, the Assembly sought to enlarge its role and insisted that it be granted to power to initiate legislation, as it demanded when it rejected the Frame of 1682. A compromise frame of government, called the Frame of 1683, was eventually approved by the Assembly. It provided that all laws should be passed "by the Governor and the freemen in Council and Assembly met", and granted the governor a right to approve or veto. This 1683 Frame of Government was still in effect when George served his term as the representative from Newcastle county in 1695.

In about 1698, George bought 470 acres of land further up the Brandywine Creek, and moved his family and settled in Kennett Square, Chester County, Pennsylvania (the area is now in Pennsbury Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania). While living there, George’s neighbors were a settlement of Native Americans who lived across the river in the “Great Bend” of the Brandywine River. After the Native Americans abandoned their settlement, he obtained, in 1701, a grant of 200 additional acres of land in the Bend, which was given to him for the “charge great trouble and cost he had born” in fencing and maintaining the fence for the Native Americans while living there.

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of Chester County Meeting Houses
Map of Chester County Quaker Meeting Houses
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In 1712 George was again elected to the Provincial Assembly, this time from Chester County. This time the Assembly was more powerful than it had been during his last term. A new Frame of Government called the Charter of Privileges was granted in 1701. It permitted Assembly members certain privileges, liberties, or powers, never before granted by Penn, most particularly, the power to enact legislation. Penn had been called back to England and was afraid of the possibility of a takeover of his proprietary colony by the Crown, and reasoned that his colony could defend itself with this new power. Another provision elevated much of the Assembly’s power to that of the governor and judiciary, creating a tripartite government. The governor’s role was reduced to management status, but still retained veto power while the Provincial Council was reduced to an advisory body to the governor. Additionally, as of 1704, the Lower Counties of Pennsylvania had withdrawn from the state and formed their own state of Delaware.

On the first day of March 1713 (1, 1, 1713), George Harlan deeded 203 acres to his son-in-law, William Webb, husband of daughter Rebecca, for a consideration of 30 pounds. On the ninth day of the same month, for “consideration of the natural affection and fatherly love which he hath” and “for divers other good causes and valuable considerations” he deeded 200 acres each to his sons James and Joshua. George died in July 1714 (Fifth Month 1714). The date of death of his wife, Elizabeth, is not known, but I know she died before he did, because in his will he requested that he be buried beside his “deare wife in the new burying grounds.”

George left a will, dated April 20, 1714 (twentieth day of the second month called Aprill in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & ffourteen) and an inventory was done of his property prior to distribution according to its terms. These documents give a good insight into the living conditions of a prominent Quaker family of the time. The will is how I learned that he had an indented servant. In it, he says that he “give[s] unto my servant woman named Mary Matthews at the expiration of her time one cow & calf & one young mare not less than three years old.” That’s a generous bequest that would help her set up her own household when the time came that her term of indenture was complete.

Transcription of Will of George Harlan

I George Harlan of Brandywine Creek and in the Township of Kennett and the County of Chester in the province of Pennsylvania, Yeoman. Being weak at this time in body but of sound and disposing mind and memory & calling to mind the certainty of Death & the uncertainty of the time thereof doe make & ordain this my last will & Testament in manner & form following, that is to say, first I yield my soul into the hands of Almighty God as unto a faithful Creator hoping through the merits sufferings resurrection & mediation of my blessed Savior Jesus Christ to find mercy & forgiveness with complete salvation & my body to be buried by my dear wife in the new bearing place on Alphonsus Kirk’s land at the discretion of my executors hereinafter named. Also my will is that all my just debts and funeral expenses be fully paid and discharged. Also I give unto my son Aaron my clock & my great brass cattle. Also I give unto my brother Michael Harlan the young Susquehanna mare. Also I give unto my servant woman named Mary Matthews at the expiration of her time one cow & calf & one young mare not less than three years old. And lastly I make nominate & appoint my sons Ezekiel & Erin Harlan executors of this my last will & testament & also appoint my brother Michael Harlan aforementioned & my son Samuel Hollingsworth trustees & assistance to my executors aforementioned in the performance & accomplishment of this my last will & testament. Also my will is that after my debts legacies bequests & expenses of words that are fully paid and satisfied that what shall then remain of my movable & personal estate if any so there be then it shall be equally divided between all my children sons & daughters share & share alike. In witness thereof I have two this my set will set my hand & seal this one & 20th day of the second month called April in the year of our Lord 1714 George Harlan (seal)

signed sealed & published & declared by the testator George Harlan to be his last Will & Testament in the presence of us who have subscribed our names as witnesses here unto his presence. Daniel McFarson, Nathan Maddock, Thomas Pierson [proven 8 Mo. 2, 1714]

The transcribed inventory of George Harlan's estate, from  History and Genealogy of the Harland Family in America, and particularly of the descendants of George and Michael Harlan, who settled in Chester County PA, 1687, compiled by Alpheus Harlan (The Lord Baltimore Press 1914)
The transcribed inventory of George Harlan's estate, from
History and Genealogy of the Harland Family in America, and particularly of the descendants of George and Michael Harlan, who settled in Chester County PA, 1687, compiled by Alpheus Harlan (The Lord Baltimore Press 1914)
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* In 17th & 18th century England, a yeoman was a free man who lived in the country and owned his own land and farmed but was not gentry – sort of equivalent to the middle class today). In 18th & 19th century America a yeoman was a non-slaveholding, small landowning, independent, family farmer.

** I’ve seen a lot of trees on Ancestry(.)com referring to George’s baptism date as January 11, 1650, relying on the same record I do, a Quaker record from later in his life from the Philadelphia Meeting, in which his baptism is noted as 11 First 1650. As I explained in the last post (Dating Induced Headaches for the Family Historian: Julian, Gregorian, and Quaker Calendars), before 1752 in England, the Julian Calendar was in use, not the Gregorian Calendar which is currently used today nearly everywhere, and in the Julian Calendar, the first day of the year was March 25. Further, while the Quakers followed the calendar commonly used in the British Isles, the Quaker Calendar had its own quirks. For the Quakers, who designated months by numbers, First month (or 1st mo.) was March. In writing dates, I’ll state what it would be in today’s calendar and then, in parentheses, I’ll include the date as I found it in the source used.

 I apologize for the spacing changes. Every time I tried to fix it it got worse. I gave up.

Quaker meeting records, 1681-1935,, Provo, Utah, USA; History and Genealogy of the Harland Family in America, and particularly of the descendants of George and Michael Harlan, who settled in Chester County PA, 1687, compiled by Alpheus Harlan (The Lord Baltimore Press 1914); Marriage Record, quicker records collection at FindMyPast(.)com, Ireland, Society of Friends “Quaker” marriages, Ulster Friends Trustees, LTD, marriage, 1674-1750, Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) marriages, Life Events (Birth, Marriage, Death), Parrish Marriages, Ireland; “A Great Cry of Oppression” by William Stockdale (London 1693); The History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with genealogical and biographical sketches, by J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope (Philadelphia, Louis H. Everts 1881); Immigration of the Irish Quakers in Pennsylvania, 1682-1750, with their early History in Ireland, by Albert Cook Myers, member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (The Author, Swarthmore PA 1902); The Quakers in America, by Thomas D Hamm, The Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series (Columbia University Press New York 2003); The History of the Hunt Family by Roger D Hunt (copyright 2011) (; Quakers in Delaware in the Time of William Penn by Herbert Standing (; Quakers in Great Britain 1650s-1750s ( ; Stook (; YM Sufferings c. 1665-1693, for 1680, 1682, 1683, and 1684, YM-G1, Religious Society of Friends in Ireland Archives,; “Early Relations between Pennsylvania and Delaware” by The Hon. Richard S. Rodney, John Moll, and William Penn, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 54, No. 3. pp 209-240 (1930) (found on; ; Charter of Privileges

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Dating Induced Headaches for the Family Historian: Julian, Gregorian, and Quaker Calendars

Calendar image from

Did you know that January 1 wasn’t always the first day of the year?

Did you know that Europe and Great Britain and their colonies used different calendars for several centuries?

Did you know that while the Quakers followed the English calendar tradition, they had their own way of expressing dates, since they did not approve of the commonly used names of the months and days in the calendar?

Do you have any idea of how hard this can make the job of the family historian in figuring out whether the person they are researching is their ancestor? For instance, if I knew the death date of the man I was researching was 12 months before the birth of a particular child, I would normally feel safe in the concluding he was not the potential father of that child; however, if it was before 1752 in England or its colonies it might not be impossible at all. For example, if the man died on March 24, 1650 and the child was born March 25, 1651, that isn’t twelve months apart; that child was born one day after the man died! In another example, trying to determine the probable birthdate of my ancestor, based on a gravestone that lists his death date and his age at death, “87 years, nine months, and six days” will differ depending on whether the given ancestor is from Germany or from England, and I have to remember to apply the differences to be as accurate as I can be. In fact, I may have to re-look at all my earlier German-born ancestors when I get back to that part of the family tree in my research plan because I did not know this when I was researching them. I learned it when trying to figure out the Quaker dating system for the branch of my tree I’ll be writing about next, which is rooted in England, Ireland and the British colonies. But before I try to explain the Quaker dating system, I have to go into a little history first.

Julius Ceasar bust in the Museum of Antiquities, Turin Italy [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons,
photo by Ángel M. Felicísimo from Mérida, España, CC by 2.0 

In ancient times, each major culture or civilization at its own calendar, each with their own problems. I’m not going into them as it is really complex and they are not really relevant to this discussion. However, in 46 BC, in an attempt to fix problems with the calendars already in use then, Julius Caesar ordered the Roman Empire to follow a calendar consisting of 12 months based on a solar year because he wanted a calendar that better reflected the planting and harvesting seasons of the largely agricultural economy in the Empire at that time. The calendar was used by all of the Empire, which eventually consisted of England and most of Europe. This Julian calendar was pretty much like the calendar we have today with a 12-month year equaling 365 days, the days having 24 sixty-minute hours each (with each minute being 60 seconds long) and divided into seven-day weeks. An extra day was added every fourth year. While the Julian calendar originally began the year on January 1, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, the calendar was gradually aligned with to coincide with important Christian festivals. By the ninth century, parts of Europe began observing the first day of the year on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation (a celebration of the day that the angel Gabriel informed Mary that she would become the mother of the Messiah); the last day of the year was March 24. This new alignment spread throughout Europe and the British Isles over the next couple centuries with England adopting it in the 12th century.

Climbing My Family Tree: Cover of Pope Gregory's Papal Bull, in the Public Domain
Cover of Pope Gregory's Papal Bull, in the Public Domain

However, there was also a problem with the Julian calendar, in that it was about 11 minutes too long, which doesn’t sound like much but this slight inaccuracy added one day every 128 years. By the middle of the 16th century, the Julian calendar was about 10 days ahead of the natural events it was originally based on, including equinoxes, and some church holidays, like Easter, were not occurring in the proper seasons. In October 1582, Pope Gregory issued a papal bull (declaration) implementing a correction of the Julian calendar in which 10 days were dropped from October that year and the method of calculating leap years was changed in such a way as to prevent calendar drift. Additionally, January 1 was made the first day of the new year. The Gregorian calendar is the calendar we use today.

The change to the Gregorian calendar was adopted immediately by Catholic countries. But Protestant countries (including England and its colonies), which did not recognize the authority of the Pope continued using the Julian calendar. Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Luxembourg, Poland, and Lithuania adopted Pope Gregory’s new calendar that year. Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, and Prussia followed suit within fifty years. But England had split from the Catholic Church only 50 years before Pope Gregory’s declaration and was determined not to bow to the Catholic rule; England held out for almost two centuries.  (Some countries held out longer than England: Russia adopted it in 1918 and Greece adopted in 1922.)

Climbing My Family Tree: Lunario Novo, Secondo la Nuova Riforma della Correttione del l'Anno Riformato da N.S. Gregorio XIII, printed in Rome by Vincenzo Accolti in 1582, one of the first printed editions of the new calendar. Public Domain
Lunario Novo, Secondo la Nuova Riforma della Correttione del l'Anno Riformato da N.S. Gregorio XIII, printed in Rome by Vincenzo Accolti in 1582, one of the first printed editions of the new calendar. Public Domain

So between 1582 and 1752, there were two calendars in use in Europe and Great Britain, and their respective colonies. Moreover, because the Gregorian calendar was used in significant portions of Europe, those people in Great Britain and its colonies who were aware of the difference in calendars took to dating their documents with both dates between January 1 (the new New Year’s Day) and March 25 (the old New Year’s Day) to avoid misinterpretation, in a system known as “double dating”. The dates were usually indicated as February 14, 1650/1 or February 14, 1650-51. The first few times I saw dates like that on documents, before I was aware of this issue, I thought that the recordkeepers weren’t sure what year the thing had occurred and were giving approximate dates, not that they were being careful to clarify exactly when something occurred under two different legal calendar systems. As you might imagine, this caused difficulty for people who had business with other countries, and they put pressure on the English government to change to the Gregorian calendar.

Finally, Philip Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield, on 25 February 1750/1, introduced into the House of Lords an “Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year and for Correcting the Calendars Now in Use”. The bill passed through Parliament and was signed by George II in May 1851. By this time, the calendar drift had grown to 11 days, and the bill provided that Wednesday, September 2, 1752, was to be followed by Thursday, September 14, 1752, and for New Year’s Day to move from March 25 to January 1 as was already the case in Scotland. In England and Wales, the legal year 1751 was a short year of 282 days, running from March 25 to December 31. 1752 began on January 1. Because 11 days were eliminated from September, the year 1752 was also a short year (355 days). (If anyone ever tries to tell you that something occurred on September 10, 1752, now you know that they are trying to con you as that date did not exist!}

Climbing My Family Tree: Page for September, in a 1752 Almanac
Page for September, in a 1752 Almanac 

In telling family history stories, it becomes necessary to know when the country I’m looking at converted to the Gregorian calendar and whether I must convert dates between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar to figure out the ages of ancestors or just to make a story clear. If you are related to me or have worked with me, you know my math skills are not optimal. Fortunately, I don’t have to do that. I am eternally grateful to Stephen P Morse of San Francisco who has put a One-Step Julian to Gregorian Conversion Calculator on the Internet. The same page also has a section where you can enter a specific country from a drop-down list and be given the date they changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. (I have used his other webpages for years; he’s got a lot of very helpful one-step calculators and search tools. To explore them, click on the “my other webpages” button at the top of the calendar conversion page I linked above.)

One warning for family historians researching in early North America before I turn to the Quaker calendar. We need to be aware that certain groups in the early colonies of North America had already adopted the Gregorian Calendar before 1752, even in British controlled territory, and were using it in their civic and church records. The Dutch settlers along the Hudson River in New York and northern New Jersey were already using the Gregorian Calendar when they first came to America in the 1620s since most of Holland had been using the Gregorian calendar since 1583, and after 1660, when the English took over the Dutch colonies, the Dutch people were allowed to stay and keep their way of life. Civil and church recorders of the Dutch towns continued the use of the Gregorian Calendar, even though the British governed their settlements and had not adopted the Gregorian Calendar yet. In addition, Palatine German settlements, and some German Lutherans also used the Gregorian calendar as it had been in use in their home countries before they moved to the North American continent. Also, any French, Spanish, or Portuguese colony or settlement would have been using the Gregorian calendar from approximately 1582.

Climbing My Family Tree: Epistle sent by the London Yearly Meeting for Sufferings in 1751
Epistle sent by the London Yearly Meeting for Sufferings in 1751
Now to the Quakers! Quaker dates can be confusing because the Quakers use numbers in their dating system and not month names, and because there was no official day on which every Quaker switched to the Gregorian calendar. The Quakers used a numbering system because they objected to the names of the months and the names of the days of the week in the English calendar because they were based on pagan gods. For them, Sunday was First Day, Monday was Second Day, Tuesday was Third Day, Wednesday was Fourth Day, Thursday was Fifth Day, Friday was Sixth Day, and Saturday was Seventh Day. Until 1752 they had no problem with September through December as month names, because those names were derived from numbers, but after 1752 all months were referred to by Quakers by their number.  They sometimes used Roman numerals for this (i -xii) and sometimes used Arabic numerals (1-12).

In recording dates, in early meeting records the Quakers usually wrote the dates in year, month, day order, or 1687, 9th mo. [or ix], 28th day. After they made the change to the Gregorian calendar, they generally recorded dates in day, month, year order, or 28, 9th mo. [or ix], 1780.

Since the Quakers use a numbering system for their dates, I had to know which calendar they were using in order to know to which month they were actually referring, which sometimes meant reading quite a bit of the document in order to try to figure out from other dated events which calendar was in use.  Pre-1752, First Month was March, Second Month was April, Third Month was May, Fourth Month was June, Fifth Month was July, Sixth Month was August, Seventh Month was September, Eighth Month was October, Ninth Month was November, Tenth Month was December, Eleventh Month was January, and Twelfth Month was February. Starting in 1752, First Month refers to January, Second Month refers to February, Third Month refers to March, and so on. Fortunately, Rebecca Borden has done a handy chart for converting Quaker months to English months before and after 1752 (Julian & Gregorian calendars) and put it both on her own blog and as a post for the blog: Quaker Calendars and Dates: In Just Two Days, Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday. I printed it off and have used it so much in researching this branch of my tree!

In the course of writing my upcoming blog posts, where it is relevant, I will use the converted dates and put the dates as they are written in the original record in brackets immediately afterward, in an effort to make sure the story is clear and to reflect the original record.

Thanks for hanging in with me throughout this explanation. I hope you found it as interesting as I have (but not as frustrating).

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