Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday - Pay attention to your calendar

I'm finally caught up on entering all my Zitzmann family info! Hooray! Now I'm starting on the Lutheran church parish records from Poland I've found recently from the FHL microfilms I ordered back in July.

I started working on the first one that I could easily tell was connected to my family - a birth record for Michael Joseph, son of Ludwig Heinrich Joseph and Justine Witt, born in 1861 in Kepa Kikolska, Nowy Dwór parish, Warszawa district (county?), Poland. This was an interesting record for several reasons. One, I already had a Michael Joseph born to Ludwig and Justine, but in 1884 in Ulanowka, Ukraine. That Michael immigrated to Canada, where he died in 1905. This new Michael's birth predates that of Gottlieb Joseph, who I thought was Ludwig and Justine's oldest child. I don't know yet what happened to him, if he died young or what. But it seems something must have happened to him, as they reused the name 23 years later, which so far I've only seen in cases where the original name holder had died.

One thing that kind of threw me was the transcription of the birth dates (yes dates - more on that below) I received from a volunteer website was a little bit off. I don't fault them at all - the handwriting is old and hard to read, and I don't know any Polish myself, so I'm in no position to be critical of someone who volunteered time and expertise to help me understand this record. But I was able to take the volunteer's transcription and play around with Google Translate until I came up with what seemed to be the correct transcription of the birth dates, in that it both looked like what was written in the record itself, and Google Translate recognized and was able to translate the words.

The other thing that threw me was the birth record gave two separate birth dates for Michael - August 23rd and September 4th, with no explanation for the apparent discrepancy. I sat there for a while, puzzled as to why it would give two birth dates almost two weeks apart, when it suddenly dawned on me - the calendar change! I remember learning in my genealogy classes at BYU about how many European countries that had been using the Julian calendar changed their calendar system to the Gregorian calendar. The US made its change in 1752, even though the Gregorian calendar was created in the late 1500s. I also remembered hearing that different countries changed their calendars at different times. So I went online and found a calendar converter, and plugged in September 4th for Gregorian, and wouldn't you know it - it came out to be August 23rd in the Julian calendar! I haven't yet looked up which country was in charge of this area of Poland in the 1860s, or when that country changed their calendar, but I feel confident that this is the reason for the dual dates.

While I still have a long ways to go before I can claim to even begin to understand these records and the people that created them, it was a real confidence booster to decipher the dual birth date issue, and to be reasonably sure that I'm correct in my conclusion. I can't wait to see what else these records have to teach me.

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