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Making sense of old handwriting

Days of the Week and Months


While records typically number the date, there are times when they will use the day of the week. Most romance languages follow the ancient Latin manner in naming the days of the week apart from saturni dies (day of Saturn) which was changed to Sabbat by Constantine I and solis dies (day of the Sun), which was changed in the First Council of Nicaea of 325 AD to Dominicus Dies (day of the Lord). However, Portuguese is the only romance language that does not follow this precedence. This is due to Saint Martin de Braga c.520-580 AD, who was a recognized scholar, a prolific writer, and known for his work in converting the inhabitants of Gallæcia (the modern-day Porto-Galicia region), eventually becoming the archbishop of Braga.

Due to the influence of St. Martin, the Portuguese language counts its days in feiras or 'free days' starting from Sunday. Below are the days of the week in Portuguese.



Sunday Domigo
Monday Segunda-feira
Tuesday Terça-feira
Wednesday Quarta-feira
Thursday Quinta-feira
Friday Sexta-feira
Saturday Sábado

Along with the day, records include the month. These are often abbreviated to conserve space. The months of September through December are often abbreviated with numbers such as 7bro for September. This may be confusing as September is the 9th month in the modern Gregorian calendar; the reason for this is that September comes from Latin septem or 'seven' as it was the seventh month in the ancient Roman calendar. Below are the months in Portuguese.

January Janeiro     Jan o Jan r o
February Fevereiro Fevr o
March Março
April Abril
May Maio
June Junho
July Julho
August Agosto   Ag to
September Setembro   7 bro
October Outubro     8 bro
November Novembro   9 bro
December Dezembro   10 bro X bro

Dating Systems in Portuguese Documents

In Portuguese records, the date is often the first information given, and it follows a regular pattern. The majority of records will begin with:

"Aos ___ dias do mês de ____ de_____ ...." which means: "On the ____ day of the month of _____ of __(year)__..."

or sometimes: "Aos ___dias do mês de ___ da era de ____..." which means: "On the ____ day of the month of _____ of the era of _____..."

Depending on the document, the days and years can be written in Cardinal, Arabic, or Ordinal numbers, often in the same document. For example, in this codex from Terrugem Portugal (1622-1776), we see various forms of recording the date.

On the same page, we see that one entry uses Arabic numerals:


“Aos 22 dias do mes de maio de 676....”

"On the 22 day of the month of May of (1)676…."

Yet in the next entry, the recorder uses cardinal numbers:


“Aos uinte esei dias do mes de Julho de seis centos esetenta e seis annos....”

"On the twenty-sixth day of the month of June of six hundred and seventy-sixth year…."

Also, note that the recorder left out the thousandth place in these records when writing the year.

Another example includes this document from Espírito Santo, Portugal (1568-1985):


“Aos seiʃ diaʃ do meʃ de Janeiro da era sobre dita...”

On the sixth day of the month of January of the above-mentioned date (1568).."


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