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Tracking Calendars in our Family History

November 18, 2013

Earlier this fall I was working on the Munson family, gathering data and writing some stories. I encountered a conundrum. Samuel Munson, my 7th great grandfather (1668 – 1741) married Martha Farnes. Martha died on January 7, 1707. Samuel then married Mary Preston on March 10, 1708. The conundrum was created by the birth of Tamar Munson on December 5, 1707.

January 7, 1707          Martha Farnes died

December 5, 1707     Tamar Munson was born

March 10, 1708          Mary Preston marries Samuel Munson

Who was the mother of Tamar? These are my Puritan ancestors. They were leaders in the community and respected among the members of the congregation. It is reasonable to exclude an out-of-wedlock conception and birth. After stewing on the matter for awhile, I recalled there was a change of calendars a few hundred years ago. The Connecticut State Library held the answer.

The full explanation is worth a read but the short version is that there had been two calendars in use in Europe and in the American colonies. In 1752, an act of the Parliament mandated that England and the its colonies all shift to using only the Gregorian calendar and that the New Year begin on January 1 instead of March 25.

Oh! The New Year at the time of Tamar Munson’s birth was March 25. Now my chart above has to be written:

March 25, 1707          New Years Day, 1707

December 5, 1707     Tamar Munson was born.

January 7, 1707          Martha Farnes died, just a month after the birth of her daughter.

March 24, 1707          The last day of the year (New Years Eve), 1707

March 25, 1708          New Years Day, 1708

March 10, 1708          Mary Preston marries Samuel Munson just two weeks before the start of the next New Year, 1709.

Based on the calendar, Martha was Tamar’s mother. Rather than dying 11 months before Tamar was born, she died just a month afterwards. It leaves me wondering if she died from complications from childbirth or maybe a difficult winter and the burden of caring for nine children in the new land.

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