Genealogy and Calendars

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping that 2015 brings you much success in your family research. The New Year brings to mind the subject of the Julian and Gregorian calendars and how they factor into family research. If you have not encountered the issue yet in your research, here is some background for you.The Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar) was used by most countries, at least European ones, for centuries, but because the calendar was losing about 11 minutes a year (as compared to an actual solar year), or one day about every 128 years, it was considered flawed. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar (obviously named after him) to resolve some of the Julian calendar problems. The general rule is most Catholic countries/regions accepted the new calendar, while others, usually non-Catholic ones, took longer to adopt it, and so there was no universal and simultaneous change in the system of keeping dates. A listing of when various countries adapted the Gregorian calendar can be found at:

Aside from the shift in time of the days of the year, another difference between the two calendars is when New Year’s Day is celebrated. The Julian calendar considered March 25 as the beginning of the New Year; the Gregorian calendar changed that to January 1. A common example of how the calendars factor into genealogy is the birthdate of our first president George Washington. He was born in Virginia (an English colony) during a time period when the Julian calendar was still being used in Great Britain. At the time, his birthdate was recorded as February 11, 1731. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which moved Washington’s Birthday a year (the change in New Year’s Day) plus 11 days (the time slippage due to the Julian inaccuracy) to February 22, 1732.

Sometimes when you come across a civil record you might see the calendar differences noted. This often happens in biographical entries for George Washington. A related issue that comes up in genealogy is when civil and church record dates conflict. Sometimes researchers unaware of the calendar change mistakenly think an ancestor was baptized before he was born, or that bans were published after a marriage took place. Such discrepancies can sometimes be explained by one date having been recorded by the Julian system and the other by the Gregorian. This is because civil registration dates might have been revised after the change over, but the church records were left in the old system. You can understand why calendars are something worth keeping in mind when doing genealogy especially in the 16th through the 18th centuries.


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A Special Family History Present

It seems that the older I get, the harder it is for me to answer the question, “What do you want this Christmas?”  I know my usual answer of “nothing” isn’t helpful, but it really is truthful.  My father use to say the same thing to me when I’d ask him, and out of frustration, I usually bought him a box of gold toe socks.  After he died and I cleaned out the house, I found a treasure trove of gold toe socks, many of which were never even taken out of the plastic boxes. I realize now, I probably should have just listened to him when he said he needed nothing. 

A few years ago, however, I did think of two things I really wanted for Christmas. One was a photo of my great-grandfather, and the other was a postcard photo of my grandmother, as a young woman, with her cousin Willie posing in an automobile in a photographer’s studio. My grandmother’s uncle was the photographer and studio owner, which gave the postcard added meaning.  The reason these items were special to me was because when I would visit my grandmother, she would often show them to me when relating her family stories.  I decided to ask my uncle, Jimmy, who still lived in the family house, if he could either give me the photos or make copies of them for me.  I informed him that they would make the perfect gifts for me.  My uncle, who was a life-long bachelor, was not much of a housekeeper or well organized, and because of that, I had little hope of him fulfilling my wish list. He informed me that he thought they had probably gotten damaged somewhere along the line, and we just left the conversation at that.

Last Christmas season when I visited with my uncle, he gave me a plastic store bag with papers in it.  He said he thought I might find the contents interesting.  I looked through the bag but after seeing a cremation certificate for a dog, another uncle’s old resume, my mother’s Pitman shorthand award, and other miscellaneous items, I am ashamed to admit that I just placed the bag and its contents into a back bedroom closet. I hadn’t gone through it again until my brother asked me last week, if I had a particular family document.  I pulled out the plastic store bag my uncle had given me, I went through it again. This time I was more than pleasantly surprised, because a postcard slipped out from between two sheets of paper.  It was the very same postcard I had asked my uncle for, the postcard of my grandmother and her cousin sitting in an automobile. I suspect he didn’t even know it was in with the items he had given me.  My uncle died several months ago, and if I were the type of person who believed in holiday magic, I might think my uncle were saying to me, “Here’s your Christmas present.” 

So, maybe the best gift I will get this year came wrapped up in a plastic supermarket bag.  Thanks, Uncle Jimmy!  Here’s hoping that the readers of this article will also receive a family history gem this year. Happy Holidays!

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Digitization Project for Irish Catholic Parish Records

There is big and exciting news for Irish family researchers. The National Library of Ireland is digitizing their entire collection of microfilmed Catholic parish registers.  The plan is to to make the records freely available online by summer 2015.  The library’s press release with more details about the project can be found by clicking on the following link National Library of Ireland.



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FamilySearch Photoduplication Service

I received an email stating that FamilySearch has discontinued their photoduplication service.  The service will cease on December 5, but only orders that were received on or before November 22 will be fulfilled.  The reasons given by FamilySearch for dropping the service are their digitization of records and new partnerships.  This news is especially disappointing for those who relied on the service for copies of New York vital records because it was convenient, fast, and free.  Of course, there are other ways to order copies of New York City vital records, but none are free.  I also doubt FamilySearch will digitize the New York City vital records, at least not soon, so it is a great loss for researchers. 

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Italian Genealogy

If you are just beginning to research your Italian-American roots, I have attached a bibliography to help you get started. If there is something you think should be added, please email me and let me know. I hope to revise this list in the near future with some of the suggestions I receive.  Helpful information for Italian family researchers

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Handwriting Analysis for Family Researchers

The deadline for submitting a handwriting sample has passed. Thank you to all who sent us a sample of an ancestor’s handwriting for this week’s program (Thursday, November 6 at 7:00 p.m).  Even if you did not submit a handwriting sample, you should consider attending because Paula Feldman, an expert graphologist, will discuss not just the specific handwriting samples, but she will also give general instruction on how to analysis handwriting in general.  

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Oakdale Historical Society

Genealogy and local history often go together.  For this reason, I thought those with family roots in Oakdale might be interested in knowing that Oakdale has a fairly new historical society. The Oakdale Historical Society meets every third Tuesday of the month at 6:00p.m. at Dowling College (Study on the first floor of Fortunoff Hall). The group has a Facebook page where they post events and interesting facts about Oakdale local history. You can view their page by clicking on the following link:

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Organizit: Reducing your Genealogical Paper and Digital Clutter

Join us on Thursday, October 16 at 7:00 p.m. when Rhoda Miller, a certified genealogist, will provide you with tips on how to reduce your paper and digital clutter.   This program is free and open to all.

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Irish Genealogy

At the last Irish Family History Forum meeting held at the Bethpage Public Library, Joseph Buggy, genealogist and author, gave two excellent presentations on Irish genealogy. The first lecture was about researching your Irish ancestors in New York City, and the other was on more advanced techniques and resources for Irish genealogy. Mr. Buggy, who has spoken at our library, is an authority on Irish family research and hails from County Kilkenny, Ireland, so he is very knowledgeable about the townland, parish, and civil administrative practices on that side of the Atlantic. If you are researching an Irish family and missed these lectures, do not despair. You will find Mr. Buggy’s book, Finding Your Irish Ancestors in New York City (929.1 Buggy) in our nonfiction collection. He also has a website, “Townland of Origin,” at with lots of information on resources and news items relating to Irish genealogy.

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New Ellis Island Website

If you have searched for a passenger list this month, you might have been surprised, as I was, to see that the website has been seriously revamped. First of all, when you type in the address, you are redirected to This is because they have combined the previous sites for Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, Wall of Honor, and Flag of Faces into one webpage. You will also notice that you are required to re-register before searching the passenger lists. The username and password you previously used to view the passenger lists through the website will not work. Registration is free, but there is a more commercial feel to the new website. If you are one who prefers using the Gold Form, the good news is that it seems to work fine on the site, but again you will need to re-apply for a new username and password before being able to view the information. I am reserving my opinion on these changes for now, and just encourage you to check it out. However, I feel it appropriate to remind you that also has New York City passenger arrival lists.

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