Remember when I mentioned that John Dibben had 10 other sisters and brothers? John was the oldest and one is tempted to believe that he would be the leader in immigration to the United States. In fact, that was what I have thought for a long time.
I had been told by my grandmother that “two brothers married two sisters.” Her grandfather John Dibben and his younger brother George Dibben married sisters Olive and Florence Marner. I had ordered marriage certificates from the GRO in England and validated John married Olive in 1869 and George married Florence in 1874 in the Parish Church of Broadwater in Sussex, England. Notice that George lists his occupation as “mariner”; this will be an important clue later. (Florence step-father Robert Slather signed as her father.)
When they gave their immigration years in the 1900 census records, it confirmed that John and Olive immigrated to Chicago in 1873 and George and Florence in 1875. The Chicago City directories verified their immigration. John first appeared in 1974 and George in 1876. Well, that would have been it, except the further I started to dig into their records and a hunch on my part, all led me to different conclusions about the Dibben family immigration story.
For this post, we will focus on George Dibben because he has the most interesting story to tell. Bear with me…the exciting part comes at the end. 😊
George and Florence came to America together in 1875. They had a little girl Olive Grace in 1876 and then sometime around 1878 they moved to Kansas to a homestead where George became a farmer. In 1879 their daughter Viola May was born. Farming must not have worked out, because in 1880 I have two census records for the family; one in Kansas
and one in Chicago where Florence and the girls are living with John and Olive.
I also have a homestead record in Kansas for George signed 1 Oct 1880. Perhaps Florence put her foot down and wanted to be in Chicago with her sister and her family? By 1881, George is back in the Chicago City Directories working as a steelworker at Rolling Mill and living a few blocks from John and his family.
George and Florence have another daughter Edith in 1884 and a son George Jr. in 1892. They bought a house on 3429 Marshfield Ave. in Chicago in 1888 and lived there until it is put up for sale in 1903. (Chicago Tribune accessed through Newspapers.com)
And then after 1903 they do not appear in the Chicago City Directories….where did they go?
This is when I started to explore the Ancestry hint that I had put on hold – I didn’t “Ignore” it because I just had a feeling that it might be true, as crazy as it might seem.
You can see why it seems crazy…a Civil War pension record and this George Dibben died in Alabama. But I couldn’t find George after 1903 and I truly believe truth is often stranger than fiction. It was worth checking out.
I found the Navy enlistment record in 1867 for this George Dibben on Ancestry and it states that he is from England, is 20 years old and has been serving for 3 years. Remember how George Dibben’s marriage record said he had been a “mariner”?
I was able to access the death certificate for George Dibben in Fairhope, Alabama at a Family History Library, which stated that he:
- was 50 years old
- died on May 1, 1908
- was from England
- had resided in Fairhope for 5 years
- was a farmer
- but there was no information about his family and no signatures of a family member
I went back to my newspaper searches and combed through every Dibben entry for Alabama and Chicago. I saw that probate for a George Dibben had been filed in Chicago in September 1908 (Chicago Tribune accessed on Newspapers.com). My “spidey” sense was tingling all over! I could take the leap, but good genealogists wait for the documents.
This is when I decided I needed to hire a genealogist in Chicago. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get to Chicago to order the probate for at least a year and that most likely it was in the Archives which would mean waiting for a couple of weeks before it could be retrieved. Sometimes it really is worth hiring a genealogist in the area. Kim Stankiewicz was great and I recommend her services!
And what did she find for me?
Yes, George Dibben did serve in the Civil War. I still need to get to Washington D.C. to get the pension records, but I am confident there are not two George Dibben’s married to a Florence who had lived in Chicago and died in Alabama in 1908.
So, George went to the United States first no later than 1864 when he was 18 years old. He returned to England after his service in the United States and married Florence. John was not the first Dibben brother to go to America.
Next: What about the other 9 siblings? Back to England I go, to track down the rest of the Dibbens.