January 27, 2011

Finding an Ancestor in Belgium (Part 4): The French Republican Calendar

In my previous post on Belgium Research I told of finding a record for Emmanuel Blomme which began with a date. This date read

"on the 18th of Frimaire in the 8th year of the French Republic"

I did not know I'd wandered into the confusing world of the French Republican Calendar which was used in territories ruled by France from October 1793 to December 1805. Luckily we were researching in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and I was able to find a good guide to this calendar.

You will need a guide if you find yourself reading records based on this calendar.

MONTHS: The 12 months of the French Republican calendar do not correspond to our standard months January through to December. The months are based on natural events of the season. So there are 3 autumn months, 3 winter months, 3 spring months and 3 summer months. In French the months are

Autumn: Vendemiaire; Brumaire; Frimaire
Winter: Nivose; Pluviose; Ventose
Spring: Germinal; Floreal; Prairial
Summer: Messidor; Thermidor/Fervidor; Fructidor

Depending what country you are searching in, these months will be recorded in the language of that country (German, Dutch, Italian, Latin or French)

YEARS: Years are counted from the start of the French Republic (which learned was 22 September 1792) So I calculated that meant Wyant Emmanuel's record "....in the 8th year of the French Republic" should equate to 1792+8 or 1800.

But in the French Republic Calendar every year has 12 months and each month has 30 days exactly. Every 4 years (starting with the 3rd year of the Republic) an extra day was added. These extra days have their own special names.

There are only two leap years - 1796 and 1804. I found it very confusing!

Luckily the Family History Library Research Guide has a wonderful calculator. You must first find the day of the French month in one column then look across the page to the French month. There you find the standard month and day.

Then you return to the top of the calendar calculator and convert the French Republican year given in the record to a Calendar Number.

Then you turn to the correct Calendar (there are four in the guide) and convert the French Republican year to an actual date. It takes time but you can do it.

I was trying to convert "the 18th of Frimaire in the 8th year of the French Republic"

Using the Guide instructions, I looked up the  French Republican Year 8 in Calendar Three. The conversion was 1799.

Next I found FRIM. (abbreviation for Frimaire) and looking down the column under FRIM I stopped at 18. Remember I needed 18th of Frimaire. That converted to 9 December in our calendar.


Thus I could convert the record for Wyant Emmanuel from

"the 18th of Frimaire in the 8th year of the French Republic" to 9 December, 1799


In Part 5 of my series on Belgium Research we will delve into Church records recorded in Latin.

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