There is a wealth of information on the internet for genealogists to peruse. Sometimes no sources are given for the information, and sometimes there are sources listed. The reliability of listed sources varies widely. Just because a source is given doesn't mean that the source is the correct source for the information, or that the source is reliable.
In Dibble genealogy in the United States, there are some long-accepted theories of lineage. I say they are "accepted" because they are repeated in a variety of published trees and websites. People tend to accept these as established facts. However, a close examination of source materials indicates that there is very little that can reliably be established about them.
When I began working on the family website in the late 1990s, there was almost no information available on the internet. Today, however, many, many ancient records have been published and are available for free through Google Books and the Archive Project. This means we no longer have to rely on copies of copies of copies of, perhaps, originally wrong information that has been further degraded by copying. In many cases we don't even have to rely on the standard published indexes of data. We can go directly to the original sources.
My website does offer the most widely-accepted theory of lineage from Robert Deeble of England down to Jonathan Dibble of Stamford, Fairfield, CT (see Early Origins). However, my research into original sources indicates that this lineage is based largely on unverifiable assumptions. I tell the story in a straightforward way, at times stating suppositions as facts in order to improve readability. But the text contains numerous links to footnotes where I examine the reliability, or lack thereof, of these statements and emphasize that I am offering conjectures, not established facts. I do not believe that what I have presented is necessarily the truth, and I am open to discovering other, better, lines.
If we're being honest, we can never assume that any source is accurate. People who are responsible for recording information make mistakes all the time. However, I do assume that people whose professions involve keeping records are more likely to be aware of the pitfalls that lead to mistakes, and to exercise due diligence to maximize the accuracy of what they record. So when assessing reliability, I follow a "hierarchy" of source reliability. Here it is, with the most reliable sources at the top, and the least reliable at the bottom:
Within most of these categories, it is desirable, though by no means always possible, to look at the original record rather than a copy. Every time a copy is made by hand, errors may be introduced. I also must note that the reliability of professional genealogists varies widely. They are just as capable of accepting unreliable or unverified sources as amateurs.
Let's look at these categories in detail:
Official Government Records
Those in charge of these records tend to clearly understand their importance and make strong efforts to ensure accuracy.
These include things like municipal birth, marriage, and death records, tax rolls, probate records, land records, immigration records, and military records.
Official Church Records
Those who set down church records tend to view accuracy as a sacred trust. However, that is not always the case. For example, Catholic parishes have been known to "fudge" birth records when they knew, or merely thought, that the mother was unmarried. And the Mormons have been known to baptize dead people into their church so that they can be reunited with their families in heaven.
However, in many early colonial towns in North America, and in many places in Europe to a much later date, it was the church, rather than the government, that recorded things such as births, baptisms/christenings, marriages, and, sometimes, deaths. Thus church records may be the only official records available.
Official Commercial Records
When there is money involved, there is motivation to be accurate, so I expect a high level of reliability in commercial accounting records.
But this category also includes ship passenger lists. These lists, in colonial times, could be pretty inaccurate or incomplete. There weren't scheduled passenger runs in those days. A ship would sail when the captain collected enough passengers to make the venture pay. So the passenger lists were often compiled months before the ship sailed, and sometimes people on the lists changed their minds (or even got sick or died) and didn't get on the ship.
One might consider these to be "official government records", since censuses, whether federal or state, are government activities. However, they are actually a largely amateur endeavor that is sponsored by government. The records are only as good as the training, intelligence, and scrupulousness, of the enumerators who collected them. This makes their quality very uneven.
Throughout this website are sprinkled my comments about the unreliability of census data. We often have no choice but to accept it as fact, since in many cases we have nothing better to document who lived where, when. But beware! The records are riddled with misspellings, incorrect ages and/or birthdates, and frequently missing people who should have been counted. It is also not unheard of for the same person to be counted more than once in the same year if s/he was in two different places when enumerators happened to show up in them--sometimes even the same enumerator.
Census indexes, which are used for searches, are hampered by misspellings and poor handwriting, along with the fact that families often have a stubborn unwillingness to call people by their actual names, even when someone is taking those names down for an official record. And it is also sadly true that many people regarded census enumerators as small siblings of Big Brother, long before George Orwell picked up a pen, and they deliberately misled, or downright lied to, the "census man". In fact, people still have this attitude today.
For all of these reasons, I have placed census records, for all of their irreplaceability, fourth in my reliability list.
People may or may not record births, marriages, or deaths correctly in their bibles. Sometimes the entries are made considerably after the fact, and memories are unreliable. Occasionally a record will be deliberately falsified too, if the truth would create a scandal. And the entries are invariably handwritten by people who are not professional scribes, making them very hard to read, and easy to misread. But sometimes these records are the only ones that can be found.
This includes histories of localities that are commissioned by the local government or historical society. They are usually written by professional historians or genealogists. I also include in this category any published non-fiction work that contains historical information relevant to genealogists.
The mere fact that they have been published as bound books, and sometimes authored by people with impressive credentials, can lead people to assume that they are highly accurate. Some of them certainly are. But the quality of these sources varies widely with the knowledge and competence of the authors. Often, though, they contain footnotes or bibliographies that we can use to check the validity of their sources.
Indexes of Records
Ancestry.com has a lot of these. For people interested in early New England families, there are a lot more. These sources are very heavily used by professional and amateur genealogists alike. However, when all you can get is the indexed record, and you aren't able to view the source from which the information was compiled, then you need to be cautious.
Most of these records contain data from highly reliable government or church sources, mixed with data from much less reliable personal memory, amateur researchers, and self-published family histories or trees. The indexes typically don't tell you what comes from where. The LDS indexes, although extensive and much relied-upon, suffer from these same errors.
If you find someting in an index, it's a best practice to try to track down the original source before accepting it.
These can be invaluable sources of information, but the information is, sadly, often wrong. Most reporters take what their informants tell them at face value and just repeat it. Newspaper obituaries don't suffer as much from reportorial laziness, but they have been know to contain misspelled names, wrong ages or dates, and worse errors.
Correspondence from Family Members
Budding genealogists are often advised to start by talking to members of their family to collect as much information as possible. This is a good idea, but it's only a beginning. Human memory, at its best, is imperfect, and the more time that passes between an event and when the person is asked to recall it, the less reliable the information becomes. Also, some family members may have an "agenda" that colors what they will tell you.
When I started the Some Dibble History website, I relied a great deal on information from family members. It wasn't long before I found that a lot of it was wrong. Today, as I revise sections of the site, I am very carefully seeking original sources for what I was told by my family.
Published Family Trees and Histories
Many family historians have published histories, a practice dating back to at least the early 19th. century. The fact that they are "books" tends to give many of them more credibility than they deserve. Usually written by dedicated amateurs, they can be riddled with errors, including family myths passed down from generation to generation, degraded memories, buried "secrets", and just plain shoddy research.
Published family trees are a more modern phenomenon. In my experience in Dibble genealogy, most of these trees copy information from each other without checking it, and many well-known errors are propagated.
I have to say that I found almost all of the information that I report herein by going to primary sources. I did not find these websites until after I had collected much of what they contain. However, these websites had some additional information that I had not found and I am grateful to them:
The Early History of the Dibblee Family
"Case of Israel Dibble and Deborah Bartlett"
I had found the documents in the case at the CT State Library website and had tried to transcribe them myself. This site has more detailed transcriptions, though I can't vouch for their accuracy.
This, of course, is the most well-known site, especially in recent years owing to all of the TV advertising. I have used it extensively and find it very helpful.
That being said, the website's search functions are, to say the least, quircky. You can enter the same search criteria at two different, but not very different, times and get different results. Entering a portion of someone's name will sometimes bring up more, and sometimes less, information about a person than searching on that person's full name.
The site's indexing of census records is also dubious at times, though it's understandable. In order to index those records, someone must try to decipher the handwriting of the census enumerators. This handwriting ranges from stunningly beautiful to atrocious. One needs to bear this in mind when looking for census data. Several times that data was indexed as something when, to my eyes, the actual handwriting clearly said something else. So one should never rely on the indexed data; always look at the actual listings.
This website is provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Unlike Ancestry, it has the advantage of being free of charge.
Some years ago I had largely given up on LDS websites because, for one thing, they only had indexes, not actual data, online, and, for another thing, the organization has been fairly careless about allowing unverified opinion and folktales to get mixed in with official records. However, today's Family Search site is much improved.
It is particularly good for marriage certificates. In the majority of cases that I've encountered, there are photographed images of actual marriage records at the site. They are usually watermarked as "UNOFFICIAL RECORD" in big block letters, but they are clearly photographs of original bound county registrar documents. These have been invaluable--and they aren't generally available from Ancestry.com.
These sites are the commonly-used sources that I found for this round of revisions. I prefer them to citations in people's family trees or histories, and I try to use them to back up Lamb.
Sources for one or two specific facts are listed in the documents where those facts appear.
Andrews, H. Franklin, "arranger", List of Freemen, Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1630 to 1691
From the book:
"The names of freemen given in the following list are spelled as found in the Colonial records, so far as they can be deciphered and transcribed. They are not the autographs of the persons who bore these names, but are as written in the record by the secretary, who probably spelled them as pronounced to him and evidently made some errors."
Bailey, Frederick W., editor, Early Connecticut Marriages as Found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800 (1896)
Bailey says, "Now, with reference to the following marriages, permit us to say that all herein are from church books and are the complete records (so far as they exist) of those churches to 1800. It is probable that many of them may be found recorded on the town records, but it is true that herein is much the town records do not contain.... It is to be noted, too, that the copy is exact, so far as the spelling is concerned. the arrangement is our own. When a difficult has been experienced with a name in copy two spellings are given, ora (?) used." He also says that a lot of these records are missing or damaged.
Barbour, Lucius Barnes, The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records before 1870, edited by Lorraine Cook White, Nancy E. Schott
From the CT State Library website:
"The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records is an index to and transcription of most towns' vital (birth, marriage, death) records from the inception of the town to about the year 1850. It is one of the indexes included in the Genealogy Index Search that we offer.
The Barbour collection was named for Lucius Barnes Barbour, State Examiner of Public Records from 1911-1934, under whose direction the project was begun. Barbour had directed the publication of the Bolton and Vernon vital records by the Connecticut Historical Society in 1909. He hired several individuals to transcribe the vital records of most other Connecticut towns. Most well-known was James N. Arnold, who had previously published the Rhode Island vital records.
Barbour presented the "Arnold" transcripts to the Connecticut State Library, where the information was typed onto printed forms. These form sheets were then cut, producing 12 small slips from each sheet. The slips for most towns were then alphabetized and the information was typed a second time on large sheets of rag paper, which were bound into a separate volume for each town. The slips for all towns were then interfiled, forming a statewide alphabetized slip index/abstract of most surviving town vital records to ca. 1850. Thus, there are two parts of the Barbour Collection: the slip index, and bound volumes for individual towns.
Statewide Slip Index/Abstract
The statewide alphabetical file, consisting of more than a million slips in index drawers, is arranged alphabetically by name of individual and within that, chronologically. Each slip contains a complete abstract of an event, generally a birth, marriage, or death. Where parentage, residence, or relationship is found in the original entry, it is included in the Barbour abstract.
At the bottom of each slip there is a citation to the original source from which the information was obtained: town, volume, and page. A list of abbreviations used may be found at in the front of each Barbour Collection bound volume. Although there is normally no more information in the original records than what appears in the abstract on the slip, researchers desiring to see the original context or verify the accuracy of the transcription may consult the original records on microfilms which are available for use at the Connecticut State Library or through LDS Family History Centers.
Yellow slips in the same file have similar entries from private sources and institutions (see Related page Vital Records from Private Sources).
Since the bound Barbour volumes were prepared from the slips, they contain essentially the same information and the same references to the original records. However, there are some important distinctions:
While the slip index retains the original spelling of the surname, the bound volumes consolidate surnames under one spelling, so that the original is not preserved.
Since the bound volume is yet another generation away from the original source, the potential exists for additional errors in transcription.
Each bound volume contains an introduction explaining the sources of information and abbreviations used.
Bound volumes were not prepared for the towns of Bolton, Coventry, Enfield, Mansfield, New Haven, Norwich, and Vernon since published compilations of vital records had previously been prepared for these towns. However, these towns are included in the statewide slip index.
In a few cases, such as those of Coventry and Mansfield, the Barbour slips were prepared from the published vital records, and the page references are to the published book, not to the original manuscript volume. Early Norwich and Woodstock vital records were also published; the Barbour Collection volume for New Haven only covers the years 1847-1851, and the Woodstock volume the years 1848-1866. Published vital records volumes as well as Barbour Collection bound volumes are available for Saybrook, Suffield, and Windham."
Brainard, H. W., "Dibble Folder"
This material was prepared in the early 1930s by H. W. Brainard, who may have been a professional genealogist. It was in the custody of the Connecticut Historical Society. The file contains 31 pages, and consists of several handwritten and typewritten documents, mostly concerning early portions of the lines of Thomas and John Dibble, both purported to be sons of Robert Deeble. Brainard does not indicate sources for most of this material.
Clemens, William Montgomery, editor, American Marriage Records before 1699
The book itself does not contain an explanation of where the records came from.
Coldham, Peter Wilson, The Complete Book of Emigrants: 1607-1660
Connecticut State Library Digital Collections
All documents containing "Dibble" are at:
"Case of Israel Dibble & Deborah Bartlett" is at:
Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society, a Committee of the, History of the Town of Dorchester, Massachusetts
From the book:
"The sources of information within reach of the Society are only such as most of the early towns of Massachusetts can furnish. Nearly four years elapsed after the settlement began [1629?], before the present town organization of Massachusetts was formed; and during the period of plantation existence few records were made except grants of land."
"The early transactions are doubtless much obscured by the removal to Connecticut in 1635-6, of a large number of the prominent men of the first settlers, taking with them the church records."
"The record of births previous to the year 1657 was accidentally burnt, and the few that have been preserved before that date were furnished afterwards from family Bibles. The few facts relating to the first three years, are gathered from the Court Records, Winthrop's Journal, and some other publications usually resorted to in like occasions, and from Roger Clap's Memoir. We would gladly exchange the well-filled pages of wholesome religious instruction, written by Mr. Clap for the benefit of his posterity, for an equal quantity of historical facts which his opportunities doubtless might have enabled him to record." [!]
"... the genealogical part has been aided by a diligent search of the Probate Records and Deeds of the County of Suffolk."
Emerson, H. F., Historical Sketch of the Town of Patriot; January 29, 1931
This newsy little paper outlines the economic and social development of the town from its first settlement to the early 1930s. No sources are cited, but I have treated the information I've used from this document as factual.
Farmer, John, A Genealogical Register of the First Settlers of New England
Farmer says that he "partially examined" colony and county records from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and relied upon correspondence with others who had access to "those public records" in other places for the rest of the data. This at least seems to indicate that the data comes from official records.
Grant, Matthew, The Old Church Record (contained in Connecticut Historical Society, Some Early Records and Documents of and Relating to the Town of Windsor
Records from a church in Windsor, CT.
From The Connecticut Historical Society:
"The 'Old Church Record' – more accurately a catalog of church members and their baptized children, begun about 1668 at a time when there were divisions within the Windsor church concerning the 'Half-Way Covenant.' Although Grant was not the church clerk and what has become commonly known as the 'Old Church Record' was not actually an official record of the church, Grant’s volume fills in gaps in the early official town and church records. The original is at the Connecticut Historical Society. The State Library holds a typescript (indexed in Barbour Collection, where it is cited as 'Volume MG')."
Hale, Charles R. "Connecticut, Hale Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices, 1629-1934"
"Charles R. Hale began charting veterans’ graves in 1916 as a project for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. In the early 1930s he directed a WPA project that transcribed inscriptions on headstones for cemeteries throughout Connecticut, transcriptions that make up the records included in this database. Mr. Hale and his co-workers discovered many old burial places that had been forgotten, and in the end, transcribed headstones in more than 2,000 Connecticut cemeteries."
Howe, Daniel Wait, Howe Genealogies (edited and expanded by Gilman Bigelow Howe) (1929)
Much of this was written by D. W. Howe before 1900; however, G. B. Howe did add a significant amount of material after D. W. died in 1921 and before it was first published in 1929. G. B. Howe wrote that a lot of "ancient records and relics" of the family were brought to, or gathered as a result of, the "Howe Family Gathering" in 1871. These items were collected and preserved by Willard Howe of South Framingham, MA. They were given to D. W. Howe, who called them "really the beginning and foundation" of the book. The book, unfortunately, provides no source notes to indicate what information came from Willard's collection and what was added later by G. B. Howe.
The book follows the descendants of four Howes: Abraham of Roxbury, James of Ipswich, Abraham of Marlborough, and Edward of Lynn. According to G. B. Howe, the first two men were brothers, but the other two were not related to those brothers or to each other, as far as can be determined.
G. B. Howe, who lived in Massachusetts, is given in the book as descended from Abraham of Marlborough.
D. W. Howe, known as "Judge Howe", lived in Indianapolis. This suggests the intriguing possibility that he might have known some of the Howes of southeastern Indiana, and their stories. So it would be interesting to know his own lineage. Oddly, though, he does not appear at all in the genealogy listings in his own book.
The Howe Family Genealogy Pages website, which cites the Howe Genealogies for nearly all of its material, does have a line for D. W. Howe, and gives his father as Daniel Haven Howe, and several ancestors going back to John Howe of Shropshire, England. The Howe Genealogies does not have this line at all, even in its appendix of unconnected Howes. There's a Find-a-Grave page for D. W. Howe's grave, which says D. W. was born in Patriot, Switzerland County, Indiana, and that his father, Daniel Haven Howe, lived in Patriot. According to this source, Daniel Haven Howe died about a year after his son Daniel was born, and his widow Lucy married Samuel P. Oyler. The 1850 Census for Posey Township, Switzerland County, Indiana shows a "Daniel How", age 10, living with Samuel P. and Lucy "Oiler".
Both the Howe Family Genealogical Pages and another website contain the identical biographical text for Eliakim Howe, given as an ancestor of Daniel Wait Howe and a descendant of John Howe of Shropshire. Both of these websites credit pages 66-68 of the Howe Genealogies. But that biography does not appear on those pages of that book, nor does it appear on pages 166, 266, 366, or 466. In fact, Eliakim Howe does not appear in the Howe Genealogies at all.
Or at least, he doesn't appear in my copy, which is a hard-cover facsimile of the book published in 1929. I have encountered several website references to various "volumes" of the Howe Genealogies, but my copy is all in one volume, and it is not called "Volume" anything, nor do the preface, table of contents, or index refer to any separate volumes. One wonders whether there is more than one book of Howe Genealogies out there, and people have been confusing them for years.
Jesup, Rev. Henry Griswold, Edward Jessup of West Farms, Westchester Co., New York, and His Descendants (1887)
Lamb Jr., Van Buren: Collection of Binders, Notecards, Etc.
Over the course of some 60 years, beginning sometime in the 1920s, Lamb, a possible Robert Deeble descendant on his mother's side, carried out a truly impressive feat of amateur genealogy. In his spare time when not running his tropical fish store, he traveled around New York and New England, visiting churches, libraries, and government records offices, looking for old records of the family. He also dug through phone books, got addresses of people named Dibble, and sent out thousands of postcards asking for any information they could provide. He organized this information on thousands of index cards, and on hundreds of sheets of 8.5 x 11 looseleaf note paper in ring binders, where he also included letters from his correspondents and other related documents. He eventually published some of this information in the "Your Ancestors" magazine. He also researched other families, and they also appear in his collection.
George Dibble III, one of the most prominent Dibble researchers of modern times, was given custody of Lamb's papers. He carried out another monumental task by scanning all of them into computer images, which he compiled into PDF documents and freely distributed on DVDs to anyone who asked for them.
I have a set of these DVDs. (I am currently trying to do my part by compiling a complete index of people's names that appear in the Lamb Binders, to make it easier to find information on specific people. That's going to take a while.)
Lamb did not always document his sources, though when he did we see familiar things like Matthew Grant's Diary and the CT Vital Records. Also, some of his papers were amended over time, with things crossed out and other things added. He also made multiple pages containining much, or all, of the same information, though in different formats. And his handwriting is sometimes very difficult to decipher. He made his share of errors as well, as all genealogists do. So the reliability of his information varies widely. However, Lamb's papers are an excellent starting point for inquiry, and I have used them extensively.
Pope, Charles Henry, The Pioneers of Massachusetts: A Descriptive List, Drawn from the Records of the Colonies, Towns, and Churches, and Other Contemporaneous Documents
Savage, James, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England
Savage says that he looked at many official records himself, and attempted to correct dates, such as by verifying whether baptism dates occurred on Sundays, which, he says, is the only day on which baptisms could be performed. But he also says that he relied on "friends" to submit additional data, and he implies a less than critical acceptance of those submissions.
Torrey, Clarence Almon, New England Marriages Prior to 1700
According to Ancestry.com, "Over a period of forty years Torrey extracted every available reference to marriages of early New England settlers from thousands of books and journals in the library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, creating the most frequently consulted finding-aid in all of early New England genealogy." So there is no guarantee that this information ultimately came from official records.
I can't find an original publication date but Torrey was born in 1869. Probably he kept reissuing expanded editions throughout his life. Editions were published a year after he died (1962), and in the mid-1980s. The earliest version is probably turn-of-the-20th-century.
Weakley, Harraman & Co., Publishers, History of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties, Indiana. From Their Earliest Settlement.; 1885
This 1286-page tome (usually referred to in my text and footnotes as "the History of three counties") is an invaluable source of details about the events and people of those counties. Abridgements of the book are also available on the web; the cited link is for the full unabridged text.
No individual authors are credited, nor are there any footnotes. The immense thoroughness of the work argues persuasively for its accuracy, but of course there are probably errors.
Welles, Edwin Stanley, editor, Births, Marriages and Deaths Returned from Hartford, Windsor and Fairfield 1631 - 1691 and Entered in the Early Land Records of the Colony of Connecticut (1898)
This is one of the sources of the Barbour Collection. Welles notes that there are inaccuracies and omissions in the original records entered by clerks.