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The History of the Calendar

In circa 44 BC Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar. This had a year of 365 days and an extra day every four years. However there were two major errors in the calculations.

The first was the peculiar way of Roman counting. Instead of counting from the year following a leap year they started by counting the leap year itself. Thus their leap years came around every third year. In circa 27 BC, Augustus Caesar noticed and corrected this error in the Roman way of counting the years.

The second problem was the idea that every century year would also be a leap year. When in fact it is only every fourth century year. The first two digits, as a number, must be divisible by four: 1200, 1600, 2000 & 2400.

There was another anomoly, probably for religious reasons, the year began on the 25th of March, hence the seventh month was named September, the eighth month October, the ninth as November and the tenth month as December.

By the 1540's, the date was out of alignment with the Solar Year by about 10 days. So a search was started for a more accurate calendar.

In 1582 Pope Gregory introduced the new (Gregorian) calendar which we still use today. It corrected the problem with the century years, made the 1st January the start of the New Year and adjusted the 10-day error. This was accepted immediately by all Catholic countries.

England, including the Channel Islands, having broken away from the Catholic Church did not accept the change for another 170 years. In 1752, when England brought their calendar into line with Europe it caused several riots. Some people thought the government were stealing 10 days of their lives.

Care needs to be taken with any event up to 1752, between the 1st January to 24th March, which would have fallen at the end of the year in the old Calendar. It can cause confusion where a child is born, for example, in December 1710 and is baptised a month later in January. In the old Calendar, it would have recorded as January 1710. For our current purposes to avoid confusion, we would record this as January 1711.

Within the Channel Islands, this is further complicated by the fact the inhabitants spoke French. As they preferred their church services to be in the same language, they often went to France for their priests. These priests would sometimes record events as happening according to the British calendar, sometimes as the French. Only by looking at the original records can it be determined which was being used. Sometimes they used both at once and made entries like 28ieme de Janvier 1688/89. To avoid any confusion, treat the latter date as being correct.

There is another problem, caused by these same priests, with regard to the last four months of the year. As Sept., in French, is 7 so a shorthand way of writing September became 7bre. The same applied to October = 8bre, November = 9bre and December became Xbre. Therefore a marriage written as 29me 9bre 1691 took place on the 29 November 1691.