Quaker Family History Society                   for family historians with Quaker ancestors from the British Isles

Beginner’s Guide to Quaker Dating

from  Quaker Connections 39

Before 1 January 1752, the civil year in England began on 25 March.

Quaker dating regards the whole of March as 1st Month, though the first 24 days were normally regarded as part of the old year (so one month after the 7th of 12th month was 7th of lst month 1709/10). Thus, before 1752 ,the Quaker calendar ran from 1st month (March) through to 12th month (February). A by product of this was that September-December were 7th-10th months, just as their Latin names suggest that they should be.

The calendar change in 1752 in fact took place in two stages.

  • First, New Years Day was moved to 1 January, from the beginning of 1752.
  • Secondly, the famous 11 days were removed from September, to move from the Julian calendar ('Old Style') to the Gregorian calendar ('New Style').

The renumbering of Quaker months (January as lst month through to December as 12th month) should therefore take place from the beginning – January – of 1752. Human nature being what it is, some people probably got this wrong at the time.

The way it worked is well illustrated on the first page of the births register for Sheffield Particular Meeting (Sheffield Archives QR 32), an unsurrendered register started later in the 1750s but containing retrospective entries back to 1749.The registrar has tried to make the position absolutely clear. Consecutive entries read:

Nathaniel, Son of Isaac & Mary Cosins Third Month 5 1751 0.S.
Mary, Daughter of John & Sarah Burkitt Seventh Month call'd Septemr 15 1751 O.S.
Mary, Daughter of John & Hannah Barnard of Upperthorp Third Month (call'd March) 26 1752 O.S
Martha, Daughter of Wm & Mary Hoyland Sixth Month 29 1752 O.S.
Wm, Son of Wm Aldam junr and Mary his Wife Seventh Month 31 1752 O.S.
Henry, Son of John and Martha Hirst Eighth Month13 1752 O.S.
Mary, Daughter of John & Mary Holbern Eleventh Month 13 1752 N.S.

It is therefore best when copying quaker dates not to translate them into named months, or, if doing so, to record the quaker number given in the source as well, for example '15 7mo [september] r751',  when entering dates into databases. It may not be possible to do this. If so, the date should be translated, but a note added to record the source text exactly.