The Higgins Family
of Glenravel, County Antrim

The Higgins Name
Although there are also Higgins of British origin in Ireland, the name is an ancient one, uigín meaning "knowledge". From the 13th to the 17th century there were eight Ó hUigín poets, including one who was a bishop. Following the submergence of the poets and bards the O Higgins changed to medicine and the sciences, where they excelled. One of the Meath O Higgins was an 18th-century Viceroy of Peru and his son, Bernardo O Higgins was the liberator of Chile and its first President.

A Brief History of Glenravel
The Glenravel Environmental Improvement Committee

Glenravel is one of the lesser known Glens of Antrim, but it is the one with probably the most interesting past. Thousands of people pass through the area every year without knowing it, as the main road from Ballymena to Cushendall cuts right into the heart of it. Everyone who travels this road comes to the village of Martinstown, which is one of the three villages making up the Glenravel area. About two miles further up the road there is a turn-off on the left for the village of Newtowncrommelin, the second of the three. And finally, but by no means least, instead of taking the road to the left but continuing onwards to the rest of the Glens you will come upon the village of Cargan, formerly known as Fishertown, a link to the industrial past of Glenravel. Glenravel, at one stage in the mid to late 1800's, was the hub of the mining industry in Co. Antrim. Large deposits of iron ore were found in the area, which were fairly easily mined.

An attempt by Nicholas Crommelin to smelt it with peat in the 1830's failed, though his blast furnace still stands to this day on the edge of the village of Newtowncrommelin. The mining really did not begin in earnest until James Fisher, from Barrow-in-Furness came to the area. With the establishment of his mining company, and several others, there was an influx of people to the three villages from other parts of Ireland and Scotland. The ore had to be transported to the coast for shipment to England. At the beginning this was undertaken by horse and cart but was a very slow process, so a unique development occurred, the building of a wire tramway. This ran from just outside Cargan to the top of Parkmore and worked on a pulley system, whereby full buckets of ore ran down one side with the empty ones returning.

The wire tramway was sabotaged by the carters as they had lost out on work. There was still the difficulty of transporting the iron ore, so a narrow gauge railway was built, the remnants of which can be seen as you drive along the road today. The last iron ore mine closed in 1933, as the ore was of too poor quality to compete with the ores being imported from abroad. This, however was not the end of the mining industry, because with the start of the Second World War there was a shortage of aluminium for planes etc. Bauxite, which is the aluminium ore, was to be found beside the iron ore deposits, so some of the mines were reopened. In all it was estimated that the Glenravel mines provided some 60,000 tonnes of aluminium for the war effort. The last mine closed in 1945, but if you look closely enough as you come into Glenravel it is still possible to see the scars of the mining industry on the surrounding mountains.

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Alexander Higgins and his wife Mary

Alexander Higgins married a woman named Mary. Two different sources in the McAteer family history indicate that the Higgins family was from Glenravel in County Antrim in what is now Northern Ireland. Glenravel is only a few miles as the crow flies over the top of the mountain above the house where Elizabeth McAteer was born at Killougagh in Cushendall. Unfortunately, there is a gap of several years in the parish records for that area and the record of the marriage of Alexander and Mary and the baptisms of children, have not yet been found. There are still Higgins living in Glenravel, however, and further research may yet unearth a connection. The proximity of the family homelands suggest that John Edward Higgins and Elizabeth McAteer may have been acquainted before they emigrated to America. Elizabeth's name has not yet been found on a passenger list, but oral history says that she came to Somerville, Massachusetts after John had emigrated there.

Their known children were:

  • John Edward Higgins, born on Sunday, 5 March 1843 in County Antrim, Ireland, immigrated on Friday, 19 May 1865 to New York City, naturalized on Tuesday, 3 October 1876 in Boston, died due to phthisis on Friday, 3 October 1902 in Somerville, buried in Holy Cross cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts. He married Elizabeth MacIntyre (aged 30) on Sunday, 4 October 1868 in Cambridge. See The Higgins Family of Somerville for their children.

  • James Higgins, born in about 1848 in Ireland, immigrated to America and lived with his brother John and family, first on Medford Street and later at 12 Warwick Place, in Somerville. James Higgins' unidentified body was found 9 May 1891 on a salt marsh to the West of Cochrane's chemical works in Somerville. He was buried by the Somerville Police dept. on about 16 May, later exhumed, identified and reburied, on about 23 May 1891 in Holy Cross cemetery in Malden. No cause of death was recorded on the death certificate. His occupation was listed as laborer and he had never married. The age given on the death certificate is 43 yrs. 2 mos. and 4 days. Was this measured from, when they found the body, or when they think he died? If he had an unused return train ticket in his pocket, it's possible he died on the night he disappeared. The significant thing about the date of birth is that this would make it March of 1848, which is the same date as his brother Alexander. This means they could be twins if the dates are correct. These dates may not be correct. The 1870 census says James is 28 and Alec is 26.

  • Alexander Higgins, Jr., born in about March 1848 in Ireland, immigrated to America and was living with his brothers John and James in Somerville in 1870. He later moved out on his own, staying in Somerville and worked as a coachman and hosteler. He was living at 506 Main St. in Boston when he died due to an abscess in the ear on Saturday, 7 October 1882. He never married. He is buried in Holy Cross cemetery in Malden, but there is no stone on his grave.

Immigration to America

John Edward Higgins arrived in the port of New York on board the Excelsior, a sailing ship of 999 tons on Thursday, 18 May 1865 and came ashore the following day. The ship took 42 days to cover the 3,043 miles from Liverpool, having departed on 7 April 1865 under the command of Captain George L. Pendleton with some 600 souls on board. Of these, six would die enroute, all but one of them infants; three from dysentery, one each from measles, croup and scrofula. There was also one child born the day before the ship reached America. John Higgins had a berth in the deck house, a long cabin on the main deck where men traveling singly were segregated from the family accommodations in steerage.

When the Excelsior arrived in New York it would have tied up at the South Street docks (where the South Street Seaport Museum is now located) on the East River. Passengers were then transported by steamer to Castle Garden for processing. Castle Garden was an enormous circular building with a completely open interior and a skylit cupola. Connected to the foot of Manhattan by a long pier, shuttle steamers came alongside to disembark immigrants and other arrivals. Adjacent to the pier of Castle Graden was a terminal from which you could board trains or steamers to other ports. It's possible that John Higgins may have gone by boat to Fall River, Massachusetts and thence to Boston by train.

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Maps of Glenravel and Ireland

Civil Parishes of County Antrim

Map of Northern Ireland

Belfast Area Map

Large Map of Ireland

Ordnance Survey Map of Glenravel Area Map of Ballymena District, County Antrim

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Higgins Birth Records for Glenravel (Skerry)
NameDate of BirthFatherMotherTownland
Alexander Higgins12 November 1889BernardMary Anne McQuillanBallsallagh
Alexander Higgins13 April 1866PatrickEllen McAuley
Alexander Higgins24 June 1838JohnMary O'LoanDrumagrove
Anne Higgins12 October 1877PatrickLetitia McDonaldLignamonagh
Anne Higgins17 July 1827

Anne Higgins26 August 1832JohnMary AloneDrumagrove
Anne Jane Higgins23 August 1867BernardJane McShane
Bernard Higgins16 April 1871BernardJane McShane
Bernard Higgins17 December 1880PatrickLetitia McDonnellLignamonagh
Bernard Higgins26 February 1854PatrickRose McAuley
Bernard Higgins27 December 1885HughSusan McAteerCraigfad
Brigid Higgins18 August 1897BernardMarianne McQuillanBallsallagh
Catherine Higgins12 October 1851BernardMargaret McKendry
Catherine Higgins14 March 1830

Catherine Higgins18 June 1838JamesJane DuffinLignamonagh
Catherine Higgins19 November 1871DanielElizabeth O'Boyle
Catherine Higgins20 April 1885BernardCatherine O'BoyleBallsallagh
Catherine Higgins25 July 1873PatrickLetitia McDonnell
Catherine Higgins28 January 1833JamesJane DuffinLignamonagh
Catherine Higgins7 November 1853BernardSusan McKendry
Charles James Higgins21 August 1889HughSusanna McAteerCraigfad
Daniel Higgins17 July 1836JohnMary McMullanLignamonagh
Daniel Higgins19 June 1891HughSusan McAteerCraigfad
Daniel Higgins3 November 1881DanielElizabeth O'BoyleLignamonagh
Elizabeth Higgins28 February 1869BernardJane McShane
Ellen Higgins15 November 1868DanielElizabeth Boyle
Ellen Higgins23 February 1896BernardMarianne McQuillanBallsallagh
Esther Higgins2 March 1834JamesJane DuffinLagnamanny
Francis Higgins19 June 1851MichaelMargaret Nickle
Francis Higgins3 January 1891BernardMarianne McQuillanCargin
Henry Higgins (twin)28 July 1890JohnMary ScullinDrumagrove
Hugh Higgins19 March 1879PatrickLetitia McDonnellLignamonagh
Hugh Higgins25 November 1895HughSusan McAteerCraigfad
James Higgins16 July 1871PatrickEllen McAuley
James Higgins26 May 1894BernardMarianne McQuillanBallsallagh
James Higgins8 October 1883DanielElizabeth O'BoyleLignamonagh
James Higgins9 February 1832

Jane Higgins10 March 1841JamesJane DuffinLignamonagh
Jane Higgins14 October 1836JamesJane DuffinLignamonagh
Jane Higgins16 December 1887HughSusanna McAteerTullykittagh
Jane Higgins17 April 1853JohnMary O'Loan
Jane Higgins21 October 1849JohnMary O'LoanDrumagrove
Jane Higgins31 March 1872PatrickLetitia McDonnell
John Higgins1 April 1841CharlesElizabeth O'DonnellEglish
John Higgins1 October 1883HughSusanna McAteerCraigfad
John Higgins10 May 1834JohnMcMullanLegnamanny
John Higgins18 January 1852PatrickEllen McAuley
John Higgins20 August 1841JohnMary O'LoanDrumagrove
John Higgins21 November 1880JohnCatherine O'LoanLignamonagh
John Higgins24 April 1892BernardMary Ann McQuillanBallsallagh
John Higgins29 June 1854MichaelMargaret Nickle
Joseph Higgins (twin)28 July 1890JohnMary ScullinDrumagrove
Letitia Higgins17 July 1882PatrickLetitia McDonaldLignamonagh
Margaret Higgins18 July 1830

Margaret Higgins21 March 1896JohnMary ScullionDrumagrove
Margaret Higgins9 March 1838MichaelMargaret NicholDrumagrove
Margaret Teresa Higgins21 April 1880DanielElizabeth O'BoyleTullykittagh
Marianne Higgins31 January 1836MichaelMargaret NicholDrumagrove
Mary Anne Higgins21 May 1890ThomasMargaret McAteerCargin
Mary Anne Higgins29 June 1869PatrickMary HigginsNewtown Cromelin
Mary Catherine Higgins27 February 1887JohnMary ScullionDrumagrove
Mary Higgins1 March 1828

Mary Higgins10 October 1893HughSusan McAteerCraigfad
Mary Higgins19 October 1828

Mary Higgins2 July 1854BernardMcKendry
Mary Higgins27 March 1866DanielElizabeth O'Boyle
Mary Higgins3 April 1864PatrickEllen McAuley
Mary Higgins5 April 1888BernardMary Anne McQuillanBallsallagh
Mary Higgins6 October 1838JohnMary McMullanLignamonagh
Patrick Higgins1 February 1878DanielElizabeth O'Boyle
Patrick Higgins1 November 1835JohnMary O'LoanDrumagrove
Patrick Higgins16 March 1892ThomasMargaret McAteerCargin
Patrick Higgins21 November 1827

Patrick Higgins24 November 1829

Patrick Higgins8 July 1855PatrickEllen McAuley
Patrick Joseph Higgins13 March 1887BernardMary Ann McQuillanBallsallagh
Rachel Higgins14 October 1868PatrickEllen McAuley
Rodger Higgins30 November 1849BernardMargaret McKendryCraigfad
Rose Higgins15 June 1831

Rose Higgins7 May 1841MichaelMargaret McNicholDrumnageragh
Roseanne Higgins13 October 1872BernardJane McShane
Teresa Higgins4 June 1865BernardJane McShane
Matilda O'Raw7 June 1868PatRose Higgins
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