Monthly Archives: May 2014

Interesting reading – Elizabethan England

Hi all –

I’ve just found some new-to-me books which are available on my e-reader through our local library – what a rush! Thought some might be interested in knowing what I’ve found.

First, I’d already known about C. J. Sansom’s historical novels about the period. The hero, Matthew Shardlake, is a hunch-backed lawyer who interacts with many historical figures. The books certainly carry the flavour of those days vividly – the smells, sights, colours – the mass of people, some dying on the streets from starvation, some riding magnificent horses, the vast majority using their legs to get about, trying to avoid the refuse in the streets. As the author was/is a lawyer in this day and age, and a historian, they’re wonderfully evocative. (and they’re good mysteries, as well.)

Now I’ve found “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England”, by Ian Mortimer. Now, it’s not as lively as the Shardlake novels – but it’s chock full of information that suddenly puts a lot of things in place. Such as the first occurrences of Poor Relief came in 1597 – in conjunction with a 2 year crop failure when thousands starved to death. There was NO poor relief prior to that – in fact, if you harboured one or more poor persons, you’d be fined. And if you were a ‘vagabond’, local authorities were to remove circles of tissue from your ears!  But as the author pointed out, the population almost doubled in the century, while traditional work diminished. The result? Lots of people in poverty so deep they could not rise above it. (and lots of dispossessed people searching for any work, of any kind, throughout the kingdom.)

He also wrote “The Time Traveler’s Guide to the Middle Ages.” Can’t wait to read it.

If you do try the Sheldrake novels, you might become a bit interested in Walsingham. (he’s one of the villains in the novels.) There’s an interesting history of his time in office – “Her Majesty’s Spymaster.” by Stephen Budiansky. It’s a firmly official history, based completely on documents discovered in European repositories – including the Vatican. Very interesting!! The author claims Walsingham set up the model for the modern-day intelligence services we see today, and does much to prove his point.  It certainly brings to life the idea that life itself in those days was anything but assured, no matter what your status.

Have any of you read any novels or histories of interest? (Or for that matter, any books on English genealogy?) Please, share.

And enjoy the coming Spring weather!!


Calendar Changes in 1752 and Quaker dating

In 1752, there was an immense change in the English calendar. The two major changes were these:
The New Year was changed from 25 March to 1 January, shortening the year 1751, which started 25 March and ended on 31 December, leaving only 282 days.
There was a second change in the calendar in 1752, in which the days between  September 2 and 14 were ‘dropped’.
An explanation – In 1752, the Julian Calendar, used by England and her Colonies at that time, was changed to the Gregorian, which had been adopted by Roman Catholic countries after 1582 (to about 1600), and other Protestant countries thereafter. England was the last to adopt the “new” calendar, and chose to do so September, 1752.
Genealogists need to be careful, because this can affect many dates of events.
The year in the Julian calendar (pre 1752) started on 25 March (or Lady’s Day), and ended on 24 March. One must check various transcriptions to ensure the transcribers reflect this by looking at the original records, if possible; I’ve checked LDS transcripts for records I’ve also transcribed, and their entries did not match the original registers, which makes their record dates from 1 January to 25 March, 1582 to 24 March, 1752, incorrect. (Goes to show, every transcription needs to be checked – or elsewise not fully accepted.)
These changes affected records in many ways. Some educated persons, believing the change should have been made in 1582, recorded a ‘double date’ – for instance, 12 February, 1666/67, indicating that while it was officially 1666, they considered it should have been 1667. This ‘double dating’ only applied to the periods of 1 Jan to 25 March, as the rest of the year was not in question. This appeared for the most part in legal documents such as wills and land transfers, but as 1752 approached, double dating appeared more frequently in church registers/records as well.
Some parish registers refer to O.S.= Old Style, and/or N.S.= New Style, especially in the years 1751-1752.
Because clerics and others were inconsistent in the recording of years, it’s essential to understand which dating system was being used for any specific year.
One should also be aware that Quaker dating is unique. For religious reasons, they do not use various common names for months and days of the week. Instead, they would show, for instance, “twelfth day, third month, one thousand seventeen and fifty”. As the first month was March, that would mean the actual date was 12 May, 1750. Sunday was always the first day of the week. This can be quite confusing especially during 1751 and 1752.
A handly date converter is at
Additionally, one must be very careful to understand how any particular Meeting recorded their dates; I’ve read the Philadelphia meeting differed from the Boston meeting in dating records! i.e., third day, second week, fourth month, one thousand seven hundred and forty. (Tuesday, 6 June, 1740) Use the converter to be sure of the day date.
Another explanation for these dating changes (with charts) can be seen at