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I'm reading a newspaper article from Friday, 10 Feb 1843, from the Coventry Herald:

enter image description here

In the births, marriages, and deaths column, dates are commonly represented as "On the 2nd inst." or "On the 29th ult.". These are straightforward:

  • inst. is an abbreviation for instant, meaning of the current month (2nd Feb in the example given)
  • ult. is an abbreviation for ultimo, meaning of the last month (29th Jan)

But I always have trouble interpreting less obvious descriptions of dates, such as:

  • "On Tuesday last,..."
  • "On Monday week,..."

Does Tuesday last mean the most recent Tuesday (7th Feb), or the Tuesday of last week (31st Jan)? Similarly does Monday week refer to the current week (6th Feb) or the prior week (30th Jan)?


This terminology seems to be commonly used in BMD notices throughout the country at least through the first half of the 19th century. Another example containing multiple uses of the "Monday week"-type terminology is the following column from the Bradford Observer, 14 Feb 1839 (click for large image):

enter image description here

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  • Are these events from a Marriages column or something else?
    – PolyGeo
    Oct 2 '16 at 21:59
  • @PolyGeo Yes, marriages. I should add that I don't have any particular interest in these entries, they just happened to have my two examples one after the other.
    – Harry V.
    Oct 2 '16 at 22:03
  • I wonder if they could be a mix of marriage reports and announcements.
    – PolyGeo
    Oct 2 '16 at 22:07
  • @PolyGeo I don't think so, the same terminology is used for deaths. My relative died on "Tuesday week", and I don't think he had planned it a week in advance. ;)
    – Harry V.
    Oct 2 '16 at 22:10
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    Oh dear - Monday week would be in the future for me too (in NW England).
    – AdrianB38
    Oct 3 '16 at 18:07
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+100

The extra information in your Bradford Observer record looks helpful. It appears that the marriages and deaths are given in reverse chronological order, starting "yesterday". The publication date was Thursday 14 February 1839, which by convention is "today" within the paper itself. So, working back from that date we can fill out a table of day references in order and correlate them with an actual date:

Table of dates and day references from the Bradford Observer BMD report

From that we see that "{day} last" goes back to the previous Thursday, and anything before that is "{day} week". So "{day} week" is anything more than one week ago (but less than two weeks).

This mirrors the typical "Monday week" future date referencing that is common today. Perhaps both were used at one point, and past/future sense was context dependent. The past construction seems to have fallen out of favour. Nowadays I'd expect to hear something more like "a week ago last Wednesday" for the past reference, and "Wednesday week" or "a week Wednesday" for the future one. But there's probably a lot of scope for regional variation.

There's no guarantee, of course, that this was entirely consistent between publications, but I imagine such inconsistencies would have been confusing, and were quickly eradicated.

Edit: Ha! Having not seen this construction before, almost immediately I found another: for my own 4th great grandfather no less!

From the London City Press, Sat 07 April 1866:
Report on the death of William Stretch, London City Press 07 Apr 1866

This reports that Mr Stretch, an undertaker, died (in the most undertakerly way, while officiating at a funeral) "on Tuesday week". Using the above guide, "Tuesday week" from Saturday 07 April should be Tuesday 27 March. And that is, indeed, the date on William Stretch's death certificate. So this does appear to be a fairly consistent usage.

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  • I just found an marriage entry published on a Monday that says "on Sunday last". Assuming they would have said "yesterday" if the marriage had happened the day before, I assume "on Sunday last" means two Sundays before. This would mean the 6th in your table could be called "Wednesday last" rather than "Wednesday week". Perhaps it could go either way.
    – Barry
    May 7 '19 at 20:55
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I would not assume, as in this answer, that all of the events in the newspaper column are past events.

The phrase "next Monday" can be ambiguous. In the Southern USA, "Monday week" is used to disambiguate the closest Monday in the calendar ("Monday coming") from the following one.

For your example, today is Friday the 10th -- the closest Monday is the 13th -- Monday week is the 20th. (See update for one discussion of the issue, especially the comments from North Carolina.)

How can you tell if the usage in the Coventry Herald is the same, or different?

One thing you could try is to find the events from the area to confirm the language usage. When searching parish registers, remember that banns might be found in a different locality from the marriage itself.

You could also try looking for the same marriages in different newspapers (e.g. can the second couple, where the groom is from Ireland, be found in Irish newspapers?).

If you can't find any indexes online that would give you the precise marriage dates, try widening the area and then look for a newspaper article that announces the marriages you have from the parishes you can cross-check.

For the first marriage: the civil registration on Ancestry or FreeBMD gives us the full names of the couple: Charlotte Hampson and Charles Ladbrook.

Name: Charlotte Hampson Registration Year: 1843 Registration Quarter: Jan-Feb-Mar Registration district: Coventry Inferred County: Warwickshire Volume: 16 Page: 319

A search of GENUKI, maps.familysearch.org, the FamilySearch catalog, etc. might tell you which if any of these parishes have records online. Once you have the actual event dates in hand, the language usage for the period would become clear.

You could also search other issues of the Coventry Herald, or other newspapers from that area, for references to historical events for which the dates are known.

I second the recommendation made by Mary Harrell-Sesniak in the post Understanding Terms Found in Historical Newspapers:

Whenever you find an “ultimo” reference, cross-reference the date with vital records, since the newspaper in this case is reporting on an event that happened the previous month and is not immediate. Reports were often reprinted from one paper to another, and after sufficient time had passed the original date may have become unclear. In addition, some historical newspapers occasionally used the “ultimo” reference to refer to an event from two months prior.

Consider that notices might have been copied from another paper -- if a date doesn't make sense, the "Monday week" might have originally been calculated from a different starting date.

Edited to add: for differences between the American and British usages see the post a week (from) tomorrow; Wednesday week posted on the blog separated by a common language.

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    Mmm - I am also concerned that the phrasing is ambiguous and that you need contemporary independent descriptions to form a "Rosetta Stone" of this guy's phrasing.
    – AdrianB38
    Oct 3 '16 at 19:01
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    Another aspect is that is is easy for me to say that "X" means something - but if I don't use that exact phrase, can I really know? For instance, take "This Sunday" and "Next Sunday" - what is the difference and can "This Sunday" be in the past or the future? I can write something but in all honesty, I'd be saying "This Sunday gone" or "This coming Sunday" or "Sunday 9th"... But I am a former programmer so you'd expect me to be a bit more pedantic.
    – AdrianB38
    Oct 3 '16 at 19:07
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If we assume that the events being reported are past events, which seems reasonable, then maybe an analogy can be drawn between how "this/last month" are described and how "this/last week" might be described.

  • A date in this month is "<date> inst."
  • A date in the last/previous month is "<date> ult."
  • A day in the last/previous week may be "<day> last"
  • A day earlier in this week may be "<day> week"

However, to be certain I think you will need to try and nail down the dates on which some events that are reported using this terminology appear to have actually occurred, using several other independent sources (if possible), in order to calibrate it confidently.


The answer below was written before seeing the newspaper image that suggests past events were being reported.

I would be interested to see more context around how "Monday week" is written but it is an expression we commonly used in the Cornish part of South Australia that I grew up in.

If I saw a newspaper dated Fri 10 Feb say that there would be an event on "Monday week" I would assume it meant a week after the next Monday which would be Mon 20 Feb.

Likewise I am fairly sure that "Tuesday last" would be Tuesday 7 Feb, meaning the Tuesday during the most recent week, although I would say "last Tuesday".

Tuesday 31 Jan would be described as "Tuesday, the week before last".

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  • I've added an example - both events were in the past so it could not mean next Monday
    – Harry V.
    Oct 2 '16 at 20:11
  • @HarryVervet now seeing the newspaper article makes my interpretation of "Monday week" seem unlikely in this instance. I'll leave my answer in case it seems useful in any instances where a future event seems to be involved.
    – PolyGeo
    Oct 2 '16 at 20:17

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