|Introduction to Genealogy|
It is especially important to follow genealogical standards when recording dates as the usual way that you enter a date may be different from the standard date format in another country or a different time period.
*genealogy software programs may have somewhat different standards for recording dates. Many will allow you to record them in the format of your choice and will still allow you to print out charts and forms with the standard genealogical format.
- When recording dates, use the accepted European standard of DAY, MONTH
(spelled out) and four digit YEAR. This is different, for example, than
most Americans are used to entering dates. Do not enter dates using a
number format. If you enter a date as 02/01/01, people will not know if
you meant February 1 or January 2 or if you meant 1801, 1901 or 2001. Example:
30 June, 1993
- It is usually standard practice to spell months out, but there are also
standard abbreviations which may be used. May, June and July are usually
not abbreviated. Examples: Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July
Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
- Sometimes you may only have an approximate date and you want to indicate
that it is not exact. You may specify an approximate date as either
"about" (abbreviated abt) or "circa" (abbreviated ca.
or c.). Examples: c. 1850, abt December 1850
- If you know an event occurred before or after a specific date (i.e. you
know your ancestor was still living at the time he wrote his will), you
might preface the date as bef. or aft. in your records. Example:
aft. 19 January, 1771
- If you are unable to determine an exact date that an event occurred,
then try using the records to narrow it down to a specific span of time
(i.e. it's a logical assumption that your ancestor would have died between
the date a will was signed and the date it was admitted to probate).
Record the time span using the abbreviation bet. (between) followed by the
dates (in standard date format) with a hyphen between them. Example:
bet. 13 Apr. 1789 - 3 May 1880
- If you find a date in a record which may have multiple interpretations,
what should you do? The best method is to enter it exactly as it was
written. You can add your interpretation of the date, such as expressing
it in the traditional format, by enclosing it in square brackets [ ]
following the original date. Example: 02/01/01 [2 January,
- An understanding of the change from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian calendar is very important to genealogists. This change took place in 1582 by order of Pope Gregory XIII, but it wasn't adopted by England and British North America until 1752. China didn't conform to the Gregorian calendar until 1949! I'm not going to get into too many details here (that could be another entire class), but here is an example of how it can affect genealogy records and why it is important to understand the history of the change to the Gregorian calendar. Example: The "Old Style" calendar was in effect in the British Empire before 1752, when the present (Gregorian) calendar was adopted. The new historical calendar recognized January 1 as the first day of the year, while the ecclesiastical calendar recognized March 25 as the first day. Thus, dates between those two days prior to the calendar change in 1752 were often written with both year numbers (i.e. 5 January 1712/13). This is referred to as double dating. Also, if a record says "The 6th day of the third month it could be referring to March or May, depending upon the calendar in use at the time. The best rule of thumb is to record dates in your records exactly as written. Then you can go to the historical records to determine the best possible date, depending on the country your ancestor lived in. Include this in brackets after the original date. The French Republican Calendar is another source of possible confusion but because of the complexity of dealing with dates that followed this calendar, I am not going into it here. For more specific information on the Julian, Gregorian, French Republican and other calendars, please see Calendars and Dates.
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