Beyond History Blog

The meaning of calendars in genealogical research in Germany – part two

Andrea Bentschneider - 29. December 2016 - Genealogy, General, Knowledge, Historical Documents

After presenting the church calendar and – with it – the influence of religion on the time calculation in our last blog, we would like to inform a little bit more about the different calendar systems.

For evaluating sources in genealogical research, it is important to know not only the specific 

temporal period but also in which region or under which political rule these sources were made. By these factors the calendar systems were influenced as well.


Calendar systems differ from region to region

At least since Julius Cesar – to his honor the Romans introduced the Julian calendar in year 45 before Christ – we know how much the validity of calendar systems depend on politics and of power relations in specific regions.

Another example for this interaction is a former calendar system in the areas that are located on the left bank of the River Rhine. In the course of the French Revolution, the Frenchmen gained ascendancy of these areas about the year 1800, hence the alterations that were established during the so-called “Franzosenzeit” (“French period”) are interesting for every genealogist:

Not only the registry offices (the former “Zivilstandsämter”) were established under French rule, but also did the officials in the areas west of the Rhine orientate theirselves by the „French Republican Calendar“ from 1798 to 1805.


The „French Republican Calendar“

The "French Republican Calendar" was introduced in response to the proclamation of the French Republic and it brought several changes: One year still had 12 months, but henceforth each month had exactly 30 days that were classified in three decades. Furthermore, the beginning of the computation of time was dated on 22 September 1792 since the French Republic had been proclaimed on that day.

Sounds complicated?

Indeed, it was, so that „French Republican Calendar“ was abolished already in 1805 by Napoleon.

Doing genealogical and family research in the areas west of the Rhine

Most of the documents made in the “French period” are probably dated according to the „French Republican Calendar“. These dates need to be converted for finding out the date according to the – nowadays generally valid – Gregorian calendar. In case you do research in these areas we have a valuable suggestion for you: It is worth looking up the website “”, here a complete list of the “French Republican Calendar” is available for free.


With this in mind, we wish you a happy New Year 2017 (according to the Gregorian calendar)!


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