Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents

// Home Dates /contact /site map /help
/ About Us
       
/ What's New
       
/ Tutorials
       
/ Coaching
  / Before You Start
  / Letter Finder
  / Numbers
    / Numerals
      / Dates
    / Money
    / Measurements
  / Problem Solver
  / Bibliography
  / Links

There are three aspects of dates to note in historical documents. The first is the counting of the calendar year, the second is the Scots rendering of the date, which is important to learn for reading Scottish documents accurately, and the third is interpreting dates written in Latin.

Calendar years
Although celebrations have long taken place on 1 January, the first official New Year which took place on that date in Scotland was 1 January 1600. Before then, the year officially began on 25 March for example 24 March 1490 was followed by 25 March 1491. The rest of the British Isles did not adopt the New Year change until 1 January 1752, by which time 11 days had to be removed from the calendar in adjustment.

The reason for the adjustment was the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The former, which is often referred to as Old Style, was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC and the latter, often referred to as New Style, was named after Pope Gregory XIII. In 1582, he reformed the Julian calendar since it did not correspond exactly with the solar year. He corrected the error by cutting 10 days from the calendar and made the last year of every fourth century an additional leap year. Many Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar but it was not accepted by most Protestant states until the eighteenth century.

As a result of these conflicting dates, some correspondents in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would write two dates in a letter to acknowledge the use of different calendars in Europe and the difference between the years in Scotland and England for the first three months of each year from 1600-1751.

Period Calendar New Year Comments
45 BC - October 1582 AD Julian 25 March  
October 1582 AD – 1599 AD Julian 25 March Some parts of Europe but not Scotland now used the Gregorian calendar and 1 January as beginning of year
1600 AD – September 1752 AD Julian 1 January Beginning of the year in England and some other parts of Europe is still 25 March
September 1752 AD – present Gregorian 1 January Beginning of the year for all of the British Isles

Further information about calendar years can be found at the following websites:

www.scottishrecordsassociation.org/index.php/news-archive/11-news-events/archive/12-the-calendar-and-related-problems
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/quick_reference.htm

Scottish dates
In Scottish handwriting you will find dates represented using the prefix jaj eg jajvC~and fourtie two which is 1542.

The jaj comes about from a misinterpretation of handwriting down through the centuries. Initially the part of the date which is one thousand was represented as i m, where i = 1 and m = 1,000. Because a numeral i on its own was often written as j this became jm. Another convention in some hands was to elongate the last minim on an n or an m. Soon what was jm with an elongated last minim became mistaken for jaj.

image of development of jaj

This (jaj) is what you should take as meaning one thousand throughout the period 1500-1750. In the later part of the period dates are more commonly written in Arabic numerals.

It was common for the word year (often written as yeir) to be repeated so you might have a date written down as In the yeir of our Lord jajviC~ and twentie sevin yeirs which we would understand as 1627 AD.

Latin dates, time and numbers
In some documents dates are written in Latin. For example:

Anno Domini millesimo sescentesimo nonagesimo quarto et die decimo septimo mensis Maii
In the year of [our] Lord one thousand six hundred ninety-four, and on the seventeenth day of the month of May ie 17 May 1674.

The lists below are provided from the FamilySearch.org website.

Cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3)
Cardinal numbers are numbers as you would count them such as one book, four pounds, a hundred yards.

1
unus
2
duo, duae
3
tres, tres, tria
4
quattuor
5
quinque
6
sex
7
septem
8
octo
9
novem
10
decem
11
undecim
12
duodecim
13
tredecim
14
quattuordecim
15
quindecim
16
sedecim
17
septemdecim
18
duodeviginti
19
undeviginti
20
viginti
30
triginta
40
quadraginta
50
quinquaginta
60
sexaginta
70
septuaginta
80
octoginta
90
nonaginta
100
centum
500
quingenti
1000
mille

Ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd)
Ordinal numbers are used where a position has to be given to a number such as in dates the 1st of May or the 26th of December or the first post or ninth volume

1st
primus
2nd
secundus
3rd
tertius
4th
quartus
5th
quintus
6th
sextus
7th
septimus
8th
octavus
9th
nonus
10th
decimus
11th
undecimus
12th
duodecimus
13th
tertius decimus
14th
quartus decimus
15th
quintus decimus
16th
sextus decimus
17th
septimus decimus
18th
duodevicesimus
19th
undevicesimus
20th
vicesimus or vigesimus
 
Months
Below is a list of months of the year in Latin. Bear in mind that when used in conjunction with other aspects of the date such as the day the end of the word will change to match the Latin grammar eg July = Julius but the 7th of July = septimo julii.
January
Januarius
February
Februarius
March
Martius
April
Aprilis
May
Maius
June
Junius
July
Julius
August
Augustus
September
September, 7ber, VIIber
October
October, 8ber, VIIIber
November
November, 9ber, IXber
December
December, 10ber, Xber
 
Days of the week
Below are the Latin version of days of the week most use feria and the appropriate ordinal number or dies and the Roman god to whom the day of the week was attributed.
Sunday
dominica, dies dominica, dominicus, dies Solis, feria prima
Monday
feria secunda, dies Lunae
Tuesday
feria tertia, dies Martis
Wednesday
feria quarta, dies Mercurii
Thursday
feria quinta, dies Jovis
Friday
feria sexta, dies Veneris
Saturday
feria septima, sabbatum, dies sabbatinus, dies Saturni
 
Phrases indicating time
The following are Latin phrases which indicate time.
anno domini
in the year of the Lord
ante meridiem
before noon
die vero
this very day
cras
tomorrow
ejusdem die
of the same day
eodem anno
in the same year
eodem mense
in the same month
eo tempore
at this time
hodie
today
mane
in the morning
meridie
noon
nocte
at night
nunc temporis
of the present time
post meridiem, pomerid
after noon (pm)
pridie
the day before
pro tempore
for (at) the time

 

Numerals
Money
Measurements

Back to Numbers main page.