Not many things are clear when it comes to researching your ancestors, but this is: A unique name makes all of the difference. I have been lucky in that my mom’s maiden surname DiBagno (Di Bagno, if you are in Italy) is terribly uncommon. Truthfully, if you google it right now, the only hits (when it comes to people) will be members of my family.  I assumed then that my path to the DiBagnos would be fairly linear. It hasn’t been and, in fact, my quest researching this particular surname has raised some questions that I hadn’t been bargaining for.

The town of Bagno in L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy used to have Roman healing baths, Bagno meaning “a body that holds an object of water.” DiBagno then translates to “of bath” or “of the town with the baths.”

The history of the DiBagno name is interesting. It appears that when my great-grandparents Giulio and Atela (Scimia) DiBagno came to America, they kept the surname in tact and un-Americanized. However, this may not be the case. Almost all of their descendants in America write and list their surname as DiBagno. In contrast, almost all of their family who remained in Italy writes and lists their surname as Di Bagno (the difference being a space between the Di and the Bagno). Since coming to America, the documents pertaining to Giulio and Atela appear to be half DiBagno and half Di Bagno. This seems more likely to be an oversight instead of a deliberate change, be it the writer/recorder misunderstanding the nuances of the name, writing in haste, etc. Either way, it stuck. According to global surname maps from 2018, approximately 30-40 people in America bear the surname DiBagno, while only 2 in Italy do. Conversely, 120-130 people in Italy bear the surname Di Bagno, while only 4 in America do.

It is also interesting to note that the occurrence of the DiBagno/Di Bagno surname appears almost exclusively in these two countries. Surname maps from 2018 indicate 1 DiBagno living in France and 2 Di Bagnos in Egypt. Of the 30-40 DiBagnos in the surname maps identified in America, it appears that all, or at least the vast majority, of these are descendants of Giulio and Atela. We can assume, then, that the brothers Pietro and Giulio DiBagno were probably the only 2 members of the Di Bagno family bearing that surname who immigrated from Italy (we know from an obituary that the brothers had 4 sisters who remained in Italy).

Di Bagno is an uncommon name anywhere you are. Its rank worldwide in 2018 was #1,090,106 and #56,111 specifically in Italy (approximately 1 Di Bagno per every 494,003 Italians). With that in mind, it is a fair assumption that anyone with the surname of Di Bagno is probably in some way related to anyone else with the surname Di Bagno (or DiBagno).

Through Facebook, I recently connected with Roberto Di Bagno, an ex opera singer turned vocal coach in his 70s who lives in Rome. I have really grown to enjoy my infrequent bursts of conversation with Roberto, who speaks only Italian, forcing me to practice my own (with a lot of help from google translator). Conversations with Roberto reveal that the Di Bagnos have a family crest which links them to ancient Italian nobility. I am suspicious of this and am hesitant to state this as fact. The crest is titled Di Bagno, but within the text specifically refers to and names the family of Guidi Di Bagno, an ancient Italian noble family whose name is similar, but who I have always thought shared no connection with our DiBagno family. However, Roberto’s revelation indicates that either we are indeed related or he was misinformed. This is also assuming that Roberto is actually related to our DiBagnos. It seems very likely, especially considering how uncommon the surname is and that Roberto, his father, and grandfather were all born in Preturo, the same village where Giulio was born. Between us we have not yet been able to pinpoint our connection.

smaller dibagno plaque from roberto dibagno

From Roberto Di Bagno: A picture of the plaque showing the Di Bagno crest.

The possibility of a connection with the Guidi Di Bagnos also offers new possibilities for the origin of the Di Bagno surname. As stated above, Di Bagno translates to “of the town with the baths” and, as there is a town of Bagno in L’Aquila, that is always where I assumed the name originated from. However, the Guidi Di Bagno’s surname is documented as originating from Bagno di Romagna, a town in the region of Emilia-Romagna. The bird pictured on the crest appears to be an eagle standing on a mountain, two symbols that are strongly identified with L’Aquila (which translates to “The Eagle”), where my Di Bagno family is from.

Through the help of Roberto, google translator, and my Italian speaking cousin Nathan we have translated the crest as follows:

Nathan: “Noble family with origins from Romagna, written in the (books of gold?) of Florence (I think it says Firenze), Ferrara and of Modena, was lady (I think it says signora?) of the caste of Bagno (Florence) and of the fief of di Bagno in province of Auguila. The (ineligible, but maybe it says Conti) di Bagno (edubellini?) transferred to the fortress of the Principi Gonzaga (?) in Mantova. Lainero (can’t make out the next word) of the Justice (di Giustizia) of the of Romagna 1-20. Jacopino Magistrate of the commune of Modena 1655. Bernando was military engineer at the service of the Emperor Massimiliano in 1575. Fortified Tata (?) and other cities of the Ungheria for the war against the Turks. Giugliano, son of Simone, senator in Firenze 1630. Francesco captain at the service of the church 1655. Monsigno Giovanni Di Bagno, cardinal and legal apostolico (?) of the Pope (?) Urbano went in France (Francia?) died in 1691 (?). Padre Giovanni Alberto abate dei Canonici Regolari (?) in Ferrara 1675. Francesco Medito (chirurgo ?) Professor of the University (Naples ?) 1780. Ernesto Medico in Siena (can’t read the year?) Giuseppe Dibagno was deputized of Minister of Finance and Treasury (can’t read the year). I can’t make out the bottom two lines.”

Roberto: “In broad terms it says, a noble family originally from Romagna, inscribed in the golden books of Florence, Ferrara and Modena was a lady of the Castello Di Bagno Firenze, and of the Feudo Di Bagno in the province of L’Aquila. The Ghibellini Counts moved to the Court of the Gonzaga Princes in Florence in 1418. As you can see, our roots are noble.”

The translation mentions “of the fief of di Bagno in province of Auguila.” (per Nathan)/  “of the Feudo Di Bagno in the province of L’Aquila” (per Roberto) which does offer some support to the idea that we are related, considering my Di Bagno family’s deep roots in L’Aquila. However, this crest is so far the only place that I have seen any mention of the Guidi di Bagno family ending up in L’Aquila. sums up the Guidi Di Bagno family as follows: “Guidi di Bagno is an old Italian noble family which moved first into Romagna (Bagno di Romagna) and then into Mantua from the 14th century.” The Guidi Di Bagno coat of arms (pictured on the Wikipedia page) appears to be the same symbol in the top right of the Di Bagno coat of arms that Roberto sent me. states: “Guidi di Bagno is an ancient noble family originally from Germany, which was first transplanted in Romagna (Bagno di Romagna) and then in Mantua in the fourteenth century.The branch of the family originates from Riccardo dei conti Guidi di Bagno who married Filippa Gonzaga, nephew (niece?) of Feltrino Gonzaga.”

One day, I will dive more into researching the Guidi Di Bagnos, but for now the possible connection is interesting food for thought…