In French records, there are two main types of numbers used to express figures and dates. The most relevant one is the set of Arabic numbers, which are the ones most widely used today. These are usually easy to read, but some of them are sometimes confusing because their shape could be similar to other numbers, such as: 1 and 7, and 5 and 9.
The second group of numbers used in French records is the set of roman numerals. Even though they may show some variations from the ones still used today, they are also usually easy to read. The researcher must be aware of the common used of some lower case letters to represent the roman numerals, for example iii instead of III.
We recommend that the researcher check other records written by the same scribe to ensure the correct reading of a particular number. Check the chart of roman numerals below.
The calendar system in France has been changed several times. However, of those used in the last three hundred years, the French Republican Calendar is the most challenging for the researcher. You may also see it referred to as the French Revolutionary Calendar. When it was created and implemented by the Republic some records were backdated to the beginning of the French Republic on 22 September 1792, which was designated as the start of year 1 of the Republican Calendar.
The revolutionaries divided the year into twelve thirty-day months and named those months for occurrences in nature within those time frames. They then added five days at the end of the year that were made into feast days for the Republic. A leap year was supposed to occur every four years that had six end-of-the-year feast days. The first year beginning September 22, 1792 was designated as An 1, the next An 2, and so forth. This calendar only lasted for 13 years, from 1792 to 1806 when France, under Napoleon, returned to the Gregorian calendar used elsewhere in Europe. (For the month of May 1871 the Commune in Paris readopted the Republican Calendar.)
Months of the year in the Republican Calendar were:
|Months of the year in the Republican Calendar|
|Months of Fall||Months of Spring|
|Vendemiaire||Grape Harvest||Germinal||Germination (Seed, sprout, bud)|
|Months of Winter||Months of Summer|
|Nivôse||Snowy||Messidor||Harvest (Crop watcher)|
||Rainy||Thermidor (Fervidor)||Heat (Thermal)|
*The endings of the months group themselves into seasons, colored above for visualization.
Complémentaire (complimentary) these are the extra five (or six in a leap year) feast days added to the end of the calendar. Each had its own name.
|Complimentary Feast Days||French Title||English Translation|
|Premier - 1er||Jour de la Vertu||Day of Virtue|
|Deuxième – 2ème||Jour du Génie||Day of Genius|
|Troisième – 3ème||Jour du Travail||Day of Work|
|Quatrième – 4ème||Jour de l'Opinion||Day of Opinion|
|Cinquième – 5ème||Jour des Récompenses||Day of Recompense|
|*Sixième – 6ème||Jour de la Révolution||Day of Revolution|
*This day was only seen on leap years.
Days of the Week
The revolutionaries also adopted names for the ten days of the week:
|French Title||English Translation|
A researcher will need to know how dates were recorded under the Republican Calendar. They were usually written out in French or the local language in Belgium, Luxembourg, and parts of the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, as well as other areas ruled by the French government, such as Egypt, Malta, Reunion, Louisiana, Guiana, and some Caribbean islands. For example:
The years of the Republic were often designated by Roman numerals. For example:
The jours complémentaires (complementary feast days) were recorded in two ways:
For information about the Republican Calendar go to The Republican calendar - napoleon.org and French Republican Calendar • FamilySearch. These sites contain conversion tables from the Republican Calendar to the Gregorian, valuable for genealogical data entry.