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Making sense of old handwriting


The French Republican Calendar


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)
Brumaire Fog Floréal Flowering (Flowery)
Frimaire Hoarfrost Prairial Pasture (Prairie/Meadow)
Months of Winter Months of Summer
Nivôse Snowy  Messidor Harvest (Crop watcher)
Rainy Thermidor (Fervidor) Heat (Thermal)
Windy Fructidor Fruit (Fruitful)

*The endings of the months group themselves into seasons, colored above for visualization.

Complémentaire Days

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
Primidi day one
Duodi day two
Tridi day three
Quartidi day four
Quintidi day five
Sextidi day six
Septidi day seven
Octidi day eight
Nonidi day nine
Decadi day ten

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:

  • Le treizième jour du mois de Pluviôse l’an sept de la République Française (The 13th of Pluviose in the seventh year of the French Republic).

The years of the Republic were often designated by Roman numerals. For example:

  • 13 Pluviôse VII (13 Pluviose, seventh year of the Republic).

The jours complémentaires (complementary feast days) were recorded in two ways:

  • By the name of the feast.
    • Example: the feast day of Labor in the ninth year of the French Republic.
  • By the number (first, second, third, and so on) of the day.
    • Example: the third complementary day of the ninth year of the French Republic.

For information about the Republican Calendar, go to The Republican Calendar - and French Republican Calendar • FamilySearch. These sites contain conversion tables from the Republican Calendar to the Gregorian, which are valuable for genealogical data entry.


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