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Figuring a Date Discrepancy: One Year Errors.

How February 26, 1876 becomes March 9, 1877

We think we've solved this...but we're amateurs. You can let us know below ...

The Plot:

What happened when, to whom, and why is the when weird? (Whew...)

Quoting E. Fudd, “Be veawy veawy qwiute! We ah hunting wabbits!”

 (Skip all this and take me right to the proof)

The Setting:

In and around Pittsboro, Chatham County, North Carolina. The years in focus are 1876-1877.


*Cast of Characters:

Albert Gean (Jean)


Martha Gean  (Jean) Knight: Brother and sister representing the Original Orange County Brick Wall Family of

“Jean” “Gean”“Jeans” “Geans” etc. (The third sibling, Edward R. Gean does not appear.)

Mary A. Gean: Daughter of Albert and Cynthia.

Cynthia Harmon: Wife of Albert Gean.

Ann Cornelia Gean Mansfield: Daughter of Albert and Cynthia.

Mildred M. Mansfield: Daughter of Ann Cornelia.

Lucy Jane Gean Williams: Daughter of Albert and Cynthia.


Stage Props:

1.        A letter from Lucy Gean Williams in the possession of Michael Gean Sparks, dated “Dec 5, 1913” and postmarked “January 6, 1913” located here: Our Special Net Images (http://www.ourspecialnet.com/gallery/869864)

2.        Memoirs of Lucy Gean Williams “Memories of a Long Life(http://ourspecial.net/moll/)

3.        Data from http://www.gean-ealogy.com and other sources.

4.        Research into calendar discrepancies focusing on Toke Norby’s web site at http://www.norbyhus.dk/calendar.html

5.        An Open Mind… and a willingness to be a bit confused before getting unconfused… (basic requirement)


Narrative and Synopsis:


The author finds a letter in his mother’s archives, from a great-great Aunt, Lucy Jane Gean Williams, addressed to the author’s Grandparents, and dated 1913. Hmmm…


Sunday P.M. Dec. 5 1913

Old Christmas

My Mother’s Birthday


Wait… Old English Christmas was traditionally Jan 5, not Dec 25, certainly not Dec 5… 12 days of Christmas and all that… My ggAunt has lost it! Too much Wassail?  

Wait… “My Mother’s Birthday”…hmmm… says here that Cynthia Harmon was born Jan 5, 1809. Yep… Lucy’s had too much wassail. She’s a month behind.

Wait… what’s the envelope say? Why, it has a Moncure, North Carolina postmark of Jan 6 1913, and on the back, it was received in Water Valley Mississippi on January 8, 1913. Was Lucy hunting a stamp for a month?

Uh uh… she just wrote down the wrong month. She was in her 70's at the time… sigh. And based on her writings, I doubt she’d gone near any spiked Christmas drink… just an error.


In her later memoirs, Lucy writes of a tragic period in the 1870’s when typhoid and other diseases were running rampant in Chatham. Lucy gives a chronology, beginning at page 14 of “Memories of a Long Life”, describing the birth of a new niece (apparently Mildred M. Mansfield), the death of “father’s last and only sister” (apparently Martha Gean Knight) and culminating with Albert’s death on “the fifth night of April 1877 (Thursday)”; his burial on “Saturday” (April 7); and the death of  “My younger sister… 12 days later  (Mary A. Gean). That date would likely be April 19, 1877. Simple math: 7+12=19.


Now, these events are dated in Lucy’s book apparently from November 1876 through ca. April 19, 1877.

And there is a discrepancy between the recorded date for Martha Gean’s death, and what Lucy relates. Either we have Albert Jean located with the wrong family members, or vice versa… or there is a dating problem, either with the family history, a tombstone engraver, court clerk, or Lucy’s memory.


Here are, as far as I know, the accepted dates for the above individuals:

MILDRED M. MANSFIELD was born 27 Nov 1876 in NC, and died 22 Jun 1916

MARTHA GEAN was born Bet. 1821 - 1824 in NC, and died 26 Feb 1876

ALBERT GEAN was born 15 Nov 1808 in NC, and died 05 Apr 1877

MARY A. GEAN was born 01 Jan 1851 in NC and died about Apr 1877


Now from Lucy’s narrative we can nail Mary A. Gean’s death pretty firmly to April 19, 1877 with possibly a 2-day error, and Lucy generally confirms Mildred's birthday November of 1876.


But, what about Martha Gean Knight? Lucy says in the 1877 chronology that Martha died in "early March".


Back to Lucy’s 1913 letter:

What’s really important here is the 12 Days of Christmas -  there was no English Christmas in 1751!

For a long time the world couldn't agree on what date was what in what county in what year... you couldn't fling a partridge in a pear tree at all the screwy calendars. 


Now… all this was supposed to have been straightened out in the English Colonies in 1752 (or 1751?) But it wasn’t. People still stuck to the old ways, accidentally or on purpose, or through habit… like Lucy remembering “Old Christmas” in her letter.


Ah… the confusion is starting to become apparent! I can sense it in you!


… it might get worse! Take a deep breath… go get a cup of coffee... it'll wait on you...


The English year used to begin on March 25.

January and February and most of March were actually the last months of the calendar year.

How screwy is that? The English were, by this time, also 11 days behind most of the world.


So they fixed it.

You think Daylight Savings Time is goofy?  Watch this:


Let’s see:

Take Old English calendar months January, February, most of March, and delete them from 1751. (Remember, they were the last months of the year...)

Start 1752 on Jan 1, which left 1751 with only 282 days. And no Christmas. The Calendar date Jan 5 1751 never existed. It was actually Jan 5, 1752. Gotcha!


But England and the colonies were still 11 days behind most everybody else!

So, they compounded the confusion by stealing 11 days from September of 1752, to get caught up with everybody else. And didn’t the Landlords love that…


By this time I feel a bit like the tenants- screwed…. Short months, short years... lost Christmases...


And this took years and years for people to get used to. And we're just talking England here. Forget the French... etc.


So, if we suspect or know that an old calendar date is being confused with a new calendar date or vice versa we gotta first decide what the date is and is gonna be, or was, or something…. Huh?

1.        Do I suspect the suspect is Old Style or New Style,  do I want to convert O.S. date to N.S. date? Vice versa?

2.        Is the Day and Month in question from January 1 to March 24? (Mar 25 is New Year’s O.S.)

3.        Add or subtract a year, depending on which way you are converting if true.

4.        Add or subtract 12 days to the date depending on which way you're converting. Regardless of whatever you did with the year. Also are you gonna count for e.g.“Jan 5” as the starting day for counting, or Jan 6? If 6, only count 11 days. Ha Ha. That’s if you’re adding days. ARRRGH!

Or some such screwy process.

And after chasing that endless loop awhile, I’ll probably compute it wrong anyway.


If we work from the timing in Lucy’s chronology, using Albert’s death date and Mildred’s birthday as anchors… and assuming Martha is the “last and only sister” of Albert, let’s see if we can get a match with the “February 26, 1876” death date of Martha Gean.


Martha Gean Knight dies Feb 26, 1876 according to some records.

This doesn’t match Lucy’s information. If Martha is actually Albert’s Family.

Or if Lucy was staying away from the wassail…


Assume this is Old Style calendar dating:

Convert February 26, 1876 Old Style to Whatever New Style:

Date between Jan 1 and March 25? Yep. Add one year. 1876 + 1 = 1877


That makes our year 1877. Cool so far.

(return to the beginning)


Subtract the 11 day calendar correction. Ok…deleting February 26, 27,28, March 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Stop.

March 9, 1877. (Ok, do the technical 12 day cycle, and come up with March 10… doesn’t much matter.)


Lucy says Father’s sister dies early March.  http://ourspecial.net/moll/pages/p14.htm

Now we have Early March, in a Year that matches Lucy’s chronology.

March 9, 1877.


Piece o’cake. Right? 


Let’s check it out…working backwards… 


Albert dies April 5. http://ourspecial.net/moll/pages/p16.htm

Lucy writes: “it had been two weeks and perhaps a few days…” http://ourspecial.net/moll/pages/p15.htm

Let’s subtract, say, 17 days total… April 5 minus 17 days:

April 5,4,3,2,1,March 31,30,



That gets us to about March 19, 1877.


March 1877

(Gregorian Calendar) (New Style)

March 1877 Calendar, Gregorian, (New Style)


Sunday morning…Sunday night http://ourspecial.net/moll/pages/p15.htm

 Wow… that got us awful close to a Sunday, March 18!

“Not long after her (Martha’s) death… it was on a Friday…as he (Albert) was coming home” http://ourspecial.net/moll/pages/p14.htm

The previous Friday was March 16.

Not much imagination required to figure that Martha dies approximately March 9, with burial on Monday, March 12... Albert stays there a few days, and heads home the following Friday, March 16… substantial agreement with the Old Style calendar computation, without trying too hard at all.



Definitely Chocolate Cake.

With fudge icing.

And no wassail.

February 26, 1876 = March 9, 1877



* Brief Player Biographies:

ALBERT GEAN was born 15 Nov 1808 in NC, and died 05 Apr 1877 in Chatham Co., NC. He married CYNTHIA HARMON 10 Feb 1829, daughter of GEORGE HARMON and AMELIA POLK. She was born 05 Jan 1809 in NC, and died 1868 in Chatham Co., NC.

MARTHA GEAN was born Bet. 1821 - 1824 in NC, and died 26 Feb 1876. She married CORNELIAS (Cornelius?) KNIGHT 14 Feb 1842 in Chatham Co., NC, He was born Bet. 1814 - 1816 in NC, and died Oct 1892

EDWARD R. GEAN b. Aft. 1809, NC; d. Bef. 1850 (listed only as an understudy)

Three of the Daughters of Albert Gean and Cynthia Harmon:

LUCY JANE GEAN, b. 03 Aug 1840, NC; d. 07 Mar 1934, Chatham Co., NC Married a “John Williams”( after 1882?)

MARY A. GEAN, b. 01 Jan 1851, NC; d. Abt. Apr 1877

ANN CORNELIA GEAN was born 24 Jun 1838 in NC, and died 03 Jan 1894 in Chatham Co., NC. She married JEFFERSON B. MANSFIELD 08 Sep 1858 in Chatham Co., NC. He was born 20 Jun 1836 in NC, and died 23 Oct 1883 in Chatham Co., NC

And a daughter of Ann Cornelia and Jefferson B. Mansfield:

MILDRED M. MANSFIELD was born 27 Nov 1876 in NC, and died 22 Jun 1916.  She married HIERONYMUS P. LEIGHTON 05 May 1895 in Durham Co., NC.


 From http://www.norbyhus.dk/calendar.html

    To convert from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, add 10 days to dates from 5 October 1582 JU through 28 February 1700 JU; after that add 11 days through 28 February 1800 JU; 12 days through 28 February 1900 JU; 13 days through 28 February 2100 JU (Not 2000 JU because of the Gregorian leap year in 2000) to get the corresponding Gregorian dates.  (jump back to "Subtract the 11 day")

What about England?
Yes, England (and her colonies) could be a problem! "In the old days" England used the Julian Calendar but as you may know England (from the 12th century) began every new year on 25 March! (before they in 1752 changed from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar). According to A.D. 1751. Anno vicesimo quarto GEORGII II. CAP. XXIII. - An Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year; and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use

The change of the beginning of the year in England
.....That in and throughout all his Majesty's Dominions and Countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, belonging or subject to the Crown of Great Britain, the said Supputation, according to which the Year of our Lord beginneth on the 25th Day of March, shall not be made use of from and after the last Day of December 1751;
    and that the first Day of January next following the said last Day of December shall be reckoned, taken, deemed and accounted to be the first Day of the Year of our Lord 1752;  
(jump back to "so they fixed it")

This means that the English year 1751 consisted of days from 25 March to 31 December. A total of only 282 days that year!

The change from Julian to Gregorian Calendar in England
.....And that from and after the said first Day of January 1752, the several Days of each Month shall go on, and be reckoned and numbered in the same Order; and the Feast of Easter, and other moveable Feasts thereon depending, shall be ascertained according to the same Method, as they now are, until the 2nd Day of September in the said Year 1752 inclusive;
    and that the natural Day next immediately following the said 2nd Day of September, shall be called, reckoned and accounted to be the 14th Day of September, omitting for that Time only the 11 intermediate nominal Days of the common Calendar;
    and that the several natural Days, which shall follow and succeed next after the said 14th Day of September, shall be respectively called, reckoned and numbered forwards in numerical Order from the said 14th Day of September, according to the Order and Succession of Days now used in the present Calendar;