The Heritage Gazette

April 2009 Vol. 1 No. 2
Dear Cousin Heathcliff,
       How does the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 affect genealogy research in America? 
                                                       Thanks, Gen Buff
Dear Gen Buff,
     The Gregorian calendar was proposed in 1582 by the Catholic Church but since England was a Protestant country they continued to use the Julian calendar.  England, and therefore the colonies, did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until September 2, 1752.  Catholic countries adopted this calendar sooner.  The Gregorian calendar called for an adjustment of about 12 days.  This adjustment should not present a problem with your research. 
Dear Cousin Heathcliff,
     I heard that there is a way to get free online census information from the public library.  I don't know how to access these censuses.  Can you help me?  Thanks so much for your help!
                                                       Desperate For Census
Dear Desperate For Census,
    You might be talking about Heritage Quest Online.  You should call your local public library to get information.   Usually, it is through their electronic reference section and you will need a library card and a pin number.  It is a very useful source and most years are available.  
     When America was founded and movement to the west (and other directions) commenced, different colonies and states were formed.  Hard decisions were made about where boundaries should be placed.  Within each colony or state counties were formed.  Many counties were divided into other counties and, still, other counties were subdivided to form new counties.  This can get confusing and it may appear that your ancestor had moved when in fact they didn't move at all!  Researchers might find it easier to discover what colony or state their ancestor was born and lived in.  Counties can be harder to discern especially if your ancestor was born around the same year the county was formed.   
      If you have a year, state and county for the birth of your ancestor, check the year the county was formed.  If your ancestors birth year was after the year the county was formed, then most likely that is the correct county.  Of course, that all depends on other information for your ancestor being correct.  If the year of birth is before the county was formed, then one has to look at the parent county.  It all gets more complicated if the county was further subdivided where more counties are involved.  If more counties are involved, research all those counties until you find the right year for the correct county.  If your ancestor was born the same year the county was formed, then check, if possible, the month of county formation.  In those cases, the counties can over lap and information might be in any of the counties involved. 
     When finding your ancestors on other family trees, don't asssume the county listed for the ancestors birth is correct.  Check it out for yourself to make sure it is the correct birth county.  This might take some time but it is worth it to validate the information. 
Surname Spellings 
     No matter when surnames began or what their origins, researchers have seen their family surnames spelled in many varied and unique ways.  Just a change of a single letter can lead one on a long frustrating journey for the correct ancestor!  Were our ancestors trying to separate themselves from the rest of the family by spelling their surnames differently?  Or were there other reasons for all that creative spelling?
     In America's beginning, a lot of folks could not read, write or spell.  For those who could read and write a little, they wrote their surnames as it sounded to them or had others write it for them according to how they thought it should be spelled.  Another problem with spelling surnames has to do with transcribing documents.  It is very difficult to read old documents because of penmanship, how words were spelled then and the condition of the document.  Documents, such as old censuses, might be in such bad shape that certain letters look distorted.  The transcriber could then interpret the surname differently.  Since this problem is hard to solve, one's surname should be researched using different spellings.  If you have a chance to view the original document, do so, and compare it to the transcription.
     Then there is the ancestor who deliberately changes the spelling of their surname!  There could be many reasons for that which has nothing to do with misinterpretations of surnames!
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