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December 3, 2016

Meme: Immigrant Ancestor Frances Holford Higginson

Frances Holford Higginson was born 28 May 1769 in Lower Peover, Cheshire England along with her twin sister Sarah Holford. Not much is know about Frances' life - her parents  John Holford and Ann Harrison were from Devanham Cheshire but settled in Lower Poever shortly after their marriage. In 1787 at the age of 18, young Frances married Thomas Higginson, a tax collector and wheelwright in Lower Peover. Over the next 15 years the couple had 8 children born in the town. 
I really like that both Thomas and Frances could write their names. For a woman that was fairly rare in the 1780s so it appears Frances had some basic education. It is not known exactly what happened to the family but some misfortune did fall on them - the loss of the family's home in 1805. An impoverished Thomas, deep in debt, signed over his land and effects before July that year. The couple had 8 children to care for, the youngest only 3 years old. 
Sometime between 1805 and 1831 Thomas died. In December that year Frances, a widow, set sail for New York with her daughter Elizabeth (Betty) Bell and Betty's children Ann, Phoebe, Mary, Peter & Joseph. They were meeting Betty's husband Peter Bell who had previously settled in New York.

Peter and Elizabeth and their children as well as Elizabeth's brother John Higginson eventually left New York for the wilderness of a new settlement in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario). Peter filed a petition for land in 1839 explaining that he wasn't happy living in New York and desired land in Arkell Ontario.  But what happened to Frances?

She was 62 years old when she left her homeland for America. Did she die there? Or did she travel with the Bell family to Upper Canada and die there? The records are sparse for Upper Canada in that time period and her death remains a mystery.  It must have been difficult for Frances - and I suspect she never saw her other children again after 1831. Her daughter Sarah remained behind in England until June 1841 when she too left for America, settling in Illinois with her husband Aaron Richardson. Poor Sarah died in Illinois that August.

What challenging lives our ancestors lived! I cannot imagine leaving my children and grandchildren behind and venturing off to an unknown land at 62 years of age. I am glad though that Frances was with her daughter Elizabeth and some of her grandchildren.  I hope that was some comfort to her.

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