THE QUAKER CALENDAR
The following information was reproduced from The Quaker Library Guide 6
Many users of Quaker records find that the way in which Quakers dated letters, minutes and other documents, particularly before 1752, poses problems.
THE ENGLISH YEAR before and after 31 December 1751
Up to and including 1751 the Julian calendar was used in England, Wales, Ireland and the British colonies overseas. In these places the year officially began on 25 March (Lady Day) and ended on the following 24 March. So, confusingly to us, 24 March 1750 was followed the next day by 25 March 1751. With 1752 the law changed: “Chesterfield’s Act” (24 Geo II c.23), passed the previous year, laid down that in future the English year would begin on 1 January. Thus the year 1751 began on 25 March 1751 and ended on 31 December 1751, which was immediately followed by 1 January 1752.
In Europe and in Scotland a different calendar (the Gregorian) had superseded the Julian calendar, with a year which did begin on 1 January. There is a further difference (related to leap years) between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, which meant that by 1752 the Julian calendar was twelve days behind the Gregorian one. Chesterfield’s Act had therefore laid down that, in 1752, 2 September should be followed by 14 September. (For a fuller account, see C.R.Cheney, ed., Handbook of dates for students of English history, Royal Historical Society, 1948.)
Quakers followed the national practice, with one exception. They objected to using those names of days (Sunday to Saturday) and months (January to August) which derived from heathen gods or goddesses, employing instead numbers: thus Sunday was for them First Day. They had no difficulty (until 1752 – see below) with the months September to December, which derived from numbers; but for the other months, they substituted numbers, writing them out as First Month, Second Month, and so on. They sometimes used Roman numerals (i-xii) for these, and sometimes Arabic (1-12).
The problem for the modern reader is remembering that the year did not begin on 1 January until 1752, so that until 1752 February was Twelfth Month and March First Month for Quakers. Furthermore the months September to December were literally (in translation from the Latin) Seventh Month to Tenth Month, and therefore those names could truthfully be used. But once the year began in January, this was no longer the case, and so from 1752 all months were referred to by Quakers by their number. September became Ninth Month, which it now was, and so on.
It is often helpful, in making notes from Quaker manuscripts, printed works, and digest registers of births, marriages and burials, to write down the old style numbers as in the original text, but add the new style names after in square brackets, such as:
29 ii [April] 1731 or 29 2 mo. [April] 1731
12 x [December] 1740 or 12 10 mo. [December] 1740
More on QUAKER CALENDAR CHANGES
Contributed by: Bob Stokley