Beyond History Blog

The meaning of calendars in genealogical research in Germany

Avatar of Andrea Bentschneider Andrea Bentschneider - 15. December 2016 - General, Genealogy, Historical Documents, Knowledge

Dates are basic for doing genealogical research. By knowing specific dates we as genealogists are able to look for searched persons and to create complete ancestral charts. While doing genealogical research, the different calendrical systems need to be considered.

Different calendrical systems 

In history there were always calendars, already in older civilizations systems were elaborated to classify time and the unit of a ”year” systematically. Hence different calendrical systems were established: The Romans brought in the Julian Calendar, in France the French Republican Calender was established in 1792. Moreover, every religion has its own computation of time which is guided by the holidays among others.

Though the Gregorian calendar is generally valid in most parts of the world nowadays, we as genealogists needs to consider other calendar systems as well. Since we often do research by looking up German church books from earlier centuries, it is indispensable to know the ecclesiastical calendar among others. Otherwise some church records could not be deciphered.

Often the dates in old church book entries are not given in a way we know today - consisting of day - month - year; Instead there are abbreviated and Latin indications that are to decode. The marriage entry of Jacob BARMBROCK und Ilsabe LÜNZMANN who married in 1822 is an example. The date is mentioned as:

„d. 17. Nov. Dom. 24. und 25. P. Trin“.
(see church book record below)

To decipher this entry it is useful a) to be proficient in Latin, b) to know the church calendar, and c) to be good in arithmetic.

The above-mentioned entry stands for “17th November 1822, Dominica 24. und 25. post (Dominica) Trinitatis“ which means that the couple was married on 17th November 1822 and that their marriage was proclaimed on the 24th and 25th Sunday after Sunday Trinitatis". According to the church year, the feast of Trinitatis is celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost in honor of the Trinity; this Sunday is called "Sunday Trinitatis" (Latin: "Dominica Trinitatis").

Since the ecclesiastical holidays - like the Feast of Pentecost - shift from year to year in our today's Gregorian calendar, first step would be to find out when in 1822 Pentecost was celebrated and from this date we then would calculate the 24th and 25th Sunday after Sunday Trinitatis.

Regarding the budgets of our clients, that kind of approach would of course be much too costly, therefore we are grateful for any website or literature that give us hints. For example, we like to go back to the website

If we enter “1822” as the year, we learn (without complicated calculation!) that the 24th and 25th Sundays after Sunday Trinitatis were the 17th and 24th November in 1822 and that the proclamation took place these days.

While doing your family research, has a date ever attracted your attention, but you were not able to decipher it? Or have you ever noticed strange dates that you would like to share with us? We are looking forward to your comments.



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