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When New Year's Day
Was March 25th?

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII (1502–85), who was pope from 1572 to 1585, and his astronomer and mathematician created a new, reformed calendar with January 1st as the beginning of a new year. However, Protestant countries continued to use the Julian Calendar where March 25th started the new year.

England and its American colonies did not adopt the reformed Gregorian calendar until 1752. Scotland adopted it earlier, celebrating the New Year on 1 January 1600 and subsequently on January 1st of each year.

So January 12, 1700, was actually Jan. 12, 1701 using today's current calendar. Obviously, this has led to confusion among researchers for any pre-1752 date between Jan. 1 and March 24. So is the record English, Scottish or did it use double dating to bridge the differences.

Double Dating
Double dating sometimes was used in Great Britain, colonial British America, and British possessions to clarify dates occurring between 1 January and 24 March on years between 1582 and 1752. In the ecclesiastical or legal calendar, March 25th was recognized as the first day of the year and was not double dated.

Researchers of Colonial American ancestors will often see double dating in older records. Double dates often were identified with a slash mark (/) or hypen (-) representing the Old and New Style calendars, e.g., Feb. 5, 1690/1691. Even before 1752 in colonial America, some educated clerks knew of the calendar change in Europe and used double dating to distinguish between the calendars. This was especially true in civil records, but less so in church registers. The system of double dating ended in 1752 in the American colonies with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar.

Settling of North Ameria

We easily forget in modern times how early settlements clung to the coastal areas of North America. So when you read of churches being formed in the 1640s - 1700, you should remember how sparsely settled America was in the 17th Century.

Below are maps showing colonization efforts in 1650, 1700 and 1750. When a country's colony failed or was assumed by another country, then the dominate country's colors take over on the map, even though the early settlers from the Dutch or Swedish colonies remained. These maps are courtesy of ResolutionArchives, which retains all rights.

A different 1750 map illustrates the number of churches or meeting houses by denomination and by English Colony.

You can click on the map image below (copyrighted Resolution Archives; request written permission for use) to open a larger image (up to 1024 pixels wide). The pop-up window can be resized and the image enlarged by clicking on it.


© 2008. Presbyterian Heritage Center at Montreat.
PO Box 207, Montreat, NC 28757

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Maps and charts are copyrighted 2007. ResolutionArchives.