Sunday, 1 April 2007

Robert Hill Gibby


Robert Hill Gibby was born 184 years ago today, the 11th of the 16 children of Samuel and Ann Jane (Hill) Gibby.

The Gibby family emigrated from Dublin, Ireland to the United States some time between 1830 and 1835. It is not certain where they landed, quite possibly New York City, but more likely on the docks of Boston, Massachusetts. By 1840, Samuel's entire family was living in Lowell, Massachusetts, as the census for that year lists a household of 20 people!

Robert married Lydia Young Farmer in Lowell shortly after that census (in 1844.) In the successive years, they would become the parents of 8 children - 5 boys, followed by 3 girls. Their first-born, Adam Henry, would not live much past his 3rd birthday, dying of the croup in 1848.

There is little information available about Robert between 1850 to 1874. A painter by trade, Robert is found in Charlestown (1860) where he lived until some time between the 1880-1900's, when the family relocated to Somerville.

There are a couple of curiosities in the 1880 Census. One is that Lydia is not listed as his wife, rather Robert's wife is enumerated as "Elizabeth." However, in the 1900 Census, Lydia is shown alive and well, having been married to Robert for 57 years! Another curiosity is that there are two grandchildren with the surname, Gibby, living in the household. It's not clear who the parents of these grandchildren are, as there is no female of child-bearing age listed. It could be that they are the children of one of Robert's sons living in the household whose wife may have died. (I still have to research this possibility.)

Robert, who became a naturalized citizen in 1840, did not participate in the American Civil War. However, two of Robert's brothers, William Henry and Nicholas Oprey, and nephew, William Henry Jr., enlisted and served in the War Between The States. William in the 40th Massachusetts Infantry Co. G, Nicholas in the 16th Massachusetts Infantry Co. A and William Jr. in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. (Again, research is ongoing.)

Robert died in 1901 in Somerville, Massachusetts, aged 78. Fifteen years after his death, my adoptive father, Frank Donovan, was born in Charlestown, Robert's home for many years. I wonder...if they were both alive today what stories they would share?