Discussion on dates

Genealogy is about people, often belonging to one family, so naturally they have the same surname. Even worse, families often like certain first names, with children called after their parent or other older relative. Also an infant death may need to a younger child being called the same name. The only way is disentangle all this is through dates. Dates are also important to place events in their correct chronology, obviously.

Many of the evidence on this website is dated, but things are not quite that simple!

The calendar until 1752 was called the Julian calendar. In 1752, this got readjusted by losing eleven days to make the Gregorian calendar, which we use today. The early history of the Dibblees falls within the Julian period.

However, between 1155-1752, the English started their year on Lady Day, 25th March. This means that we can have an ambiguity of dates between 1st of January and 24th March. Records of the time would describe this period as belonging to the previous year, or give both years. For example, the date 20th March 1635 could be described as 20th March 1635/6. This would unambiguously describe it as a few days before 25th March 1636 (where the year number is same for our system and the original records). However 20th March 1635 by itself, in an original record, would be considered to be in 1636 according to modern reckoning. This is why, in Hotten's list of the unknown ship, the original description of 20th March 1635 is glossed as 1635/6.

But I suspect that sometimes this has led to confusion. It could be that some Victorian transcriptions of original records have changed the dates to make them understandable to their audiences, and some may not. So this early year period needs careful scrutiny. It could even be that some people read an already changed date (which would be accurate to modern eyes), and change it yet again (which would definitely be wrong!)

We have a further confusion: A notable early text is Winthrop's Journal "History of New England 1630-1649". This was edited by James Kendall Hosmer, New York 1908. In the introduction, Hosmer says "Early in 1635, Winthrop abandons in his text the Roman names of the months, substituting, in accordance with Puritan sentiment, a system of numbering, beginning with March as the first month." I presume that this was because the month names are in some cases the names of Roman gods, and so pagan. So considering the date "23th day of the 6th moneth. Anno. 1636.", the sixth month is not June, but August. This must lead to a further confusion. What happens between 1st March and 24th March? This should belong in the previous year (see above), yet is described as the first month, presumably of the new year! Which year number is given? In some cases, the records seem to leave the year out for March!

Beware of year numbers between 1st January and 24th March. Beware of month numbers. Beware particularly of year numbers when month numbers are used, between 1st March and 24th March.

Beware the Ides of March!

They also specified the days of the week as a number rather than a name like Monday, which would also be pagan. The first day of the week is Sunday, also called saboath. So the second day is Monday, and so on, with the seventh day of the week being Saturday. This conforms to the description of the creation in Genesis: "God rested on the seventh day".