When was that again anyway?

The Legal Genealogist is always sooooooo enthusiastic when coming across a document where the only indication of the date of the document is something along the lines of: “George the Second … on the twenty Second Day of April in the Twenty&fifth Year of our reign.”

Pardon me while I pry my tongue out of the side of my mouth.

That’s a real example, by the way — it’s a summons issued by the Middlesex County, New Jersey, Court of Common Pleas in a civil case, Shotwell v. Taylor.

And, for a presentation I was doing last night at the Central Jersey Genealogical Club, I really needed to know… when was that again?

Sigh… It’s times like that when you realize that American education as to the dates of British royals leaves something to be desired.

And it’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time learning on my own — perhaps because the only royal this born-and-bred American really has any major interest in after the Wars of the Roses1 is George III, and that’s only because he’s the one we kicked out in the Revolution. Which means that I know for sure he was king between 1776 and 17832 — but how long before or after? And who came before him — and who after?

Sometimes even we born-and-bred Americans need to know the British royal (or regnal) years — when that document we’re looking at talks about the 25th year of George II or the 12th year of James I.

And there’s a born-and-bred American resource where we can find that — and it’s one you’ve read about more than once if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time.

British regnal years

It’s Black’s Law Dictionary — that quintessentially American resource we all use to try to understand the lingo of the law.3

Now usually around these parts I cite the first edition, published in 1891, and there is a table of British regnal years in that volume.4 But the second edition, published in 1910, has a slightly more complete table5 — and because of that, you might want to use that instead.

Of course, you have your own copy of Black’s Law Dictionary, right? If not, you know you can find the 1891 edition and the 1910 edition online, right? Of course you did…

And to figure out the start and stop dates, there’s a nice chart on Wikipedia.6

So, putting it all together, George II’s reign began on the 11th of June 1727, so the end date of each regnal year was 10 June. That means the first year of his reign began 11 June 1727 and ended 10 June 1728.

And that means the 25th year of his reign began 11 June 1751 and ended 10 June 1752.

So… “twenty Second Day of April in the Twenty&fifth Year of our reign” — when was that again?

It was 22 April 1752.


SOURCES

  1. That was the series of wars between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists for control of the British throne that ended with Henry VII and Henry VIII. See Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Wars of the Roses,” rev. 14 Nov 2018.
  2. See “Timeline of the Revolutionary War,” USHistory.org (http://www.ushistory.org/ : accessed 14 Nov 2018).
  3. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Henry Campbell Black (1860-1927),” The Legal Genealogist, posted 6 Jan 2012 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 14 Nov 2018).
  4. “A Table of British Regnal Years,” Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), v.
  5. “A Table of British Regnal Years,” Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law, 2d edition (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1910), vii.
  6. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Regnal years of English monarchs,” rev. 9 Nov 2018.
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