Tuesday, September 7, 2010

KoolTool: A Handful of Dates

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace…

Ancient Mayan Calendar
As genealogists, we’re constantly dealing with names, dates and the inevitable passage of time. We note birthdays, marriages, deaths and other significant events in our files and databases. We calculate birthdates from the ages and death dates found on worn tombstone inscriptions; we build timelines for the folks we trace, often asking ourselves, “How old was he/she when… (fill in the event under study).

Whenever I’m writing a capsule biography of an ancestor or a long-ago relative, I like to keep one of the many calendar/calculator tools that are freely available on the web open on my laptop.  First of all, I use it to find out the specific day of the week on which a vital event occurred.  (I never knew how common Sunday funerals and mid-week weddings used to be until I started checking for “day of the week” information).  Then, I use it to calculate the “How old were they when…” questions.

These days, I gravitate to http://www.timeanddate.com/, a free website with some useful tools that genealogists and family historians will enjoy.  Here, I can call up a calendar for any year with a few keystrokes by going to the “Calendar for Any Year” section at the top of the page and selecting “choose another year”.  I simply enter the year I want to see.  For example, one of my great-grandfathers was born on 19 August 1851.  By calling up a calendar for that year, I quickly learn that he was born on a Tuesday.

Then, by going to the section the lets me calculate the time duration between two dates I can enter his birthdate and the date of his wedding (6 March 1873) and quickly learn that he was 21 years, 6 months and 16 days old. And, he was married on a Thursday.  Another calculator lets me subtract age in years, months and days from a given date (i.e., a specific death date) to generate a birth date.

Timeanddate.com is produced by Steffen Thorsen and his associates in Stavanger, Norway.

While fun, none of this, of course, is earth-shattering; however, it may give us new perspectives on a vexing research problem and even give us new things to ponder.  For starters, what factors were taken into consideration when choosing a wedding date in 1873? How easy was it to arrange for a Sunday burial on short notice?

The more you know, the more you want to know even more…

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