1695/96, 1695 O. S. or 1696 N. S.
I wrote a report about George Washington in 1956; I was in the 8th grade. I wondered why one book had a different date for his birth. I learned why.
The Adoption of the Gregorian Calendar
George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731, according to the then-used Julian calendar. In 1752/53, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved Washington's birthday a year and 11 days to February 22, 1732.
The correct way to record his birth date is: February 22, 1732 (O.S. February 11, 1731)
Double dating came about when the new Gregorian Calendar was introduced to correct the growing error in the old Julian Calendar. There was a fear that before long, Easter would be celebrated during the winter, rather than during the spring.
The missing days of October, 1582
Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull declaring that Thursday October 4, 1582 would be followed by Friday October 15, 1582, and that centennial years would only be a leap year if they were a multiple of 400. This shortened the year by 3 days per 400 years, giving a year of 365.2425 days.
Alas, Gregory was the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and Protestants would not accept the new calendar despite the fact that it was a wonderful improvement. The longer they waited to convert to the Gregorian Calendar, the greater was the error in the Julian Calendar.
Timeline: Adoption of the Gregorian Calendar
Different places in the world had a different date for the same day. In fact, sometimes the same places used both the Julian and Gregorian calendars, as discussed below..
What Do These Dates Mean?
, , and
These dates are also seen as
1695/6, 1695/96, 1695-96, 1695 O. S., 1696 N. S.;
1710/11, 1710-1, 1710 O. S., 1711 N. S.; and
1699/700, 1699-1700, 1699 O. S., 1700 N. S.
and any number of variations.
Dates written in this manner are NOT a range of possible years. 1695/6, 1695/96, 1695-96, 1695 O. S., 1696 N. S. are all the same date from two different calendars, written in different formats. Today, we would call the year 1696. Before the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar, the year would be 1695.
If this is confusing you, imagine how it was for the people who had to live with two different calendars!
This is what was known as double dating. The first date, Old Style (O. S.), is from the Julian Calendar, and the second date, New Style (N. S.), is from the Gregorian Calendar. The year dates on the two calendars overlapped between January 1 and March 25. March 25 was the first day of the year on the Julian Calendar and January 1 was the first day of the year on the Gregorian Calendar.
Why Was Double Dating Used?
During those months in the American Colonies, for the British government it was 1716, Old Style, and for the common people it was 1717, New Style. The British government didn't switch to the Gregorian Calendar until 1752, when Great Britain finally changed. Most of the people in the American Colonies had already been using the Gregorian Calendar for decades. Due to the fact that one group followed the Julian Calendar, and the other had accepted the new Gregorian Calendar, both dates were sometimes recorded.
If you want to record only one year for dates between January 1 and March 25, you must write "1710 O. S." or "1711 N. S." in order to be accurate. George Washington was really born with two different dates depending on one's point of view, but of course on the same day: February 22, 1731 O. S. for those who followed the Julian Calendar, February 22, 1732 N. S. for those who followed the Gregorian Calendar, and February 22, 1731/32 to use both systems. This is why it is important to indicate which calendar you are using, or use double dating to show both. This discrepancy between the two calendars is the reason some dates in the contemporary literature apparently conflict.
Different countries accepted the Gregorian Calendar much later than others. In Great Britain and Dominions, including the American Colonies, September 2, 1752 was followed by September 14, 1752 to compensate for the increased error. In Russia, January 31, 1918 was followed by February 14, 1918, when the conversion was made to the Gregorian Calendar.
Double dating is more complicated than this brief outline.
The Problem of Dates Sue Roe gives a good description of double dating in this article.
Google Search Here are search results that list a number of sites with a fuller explanation of double dating.
The Julian day is the continuous count of days since the beginning of the Julian calendar. It is used today, primarily by astronomers, but also in computer programming, the military, and the food industry. See the Julian Date Converter at the U.S. Naval Observatory.