Morris (also spelled Maurice and Muiris) Higgins was born sometime between 1815 and 1820 in County Mayo, Ireland. His parents may have been Michael Higgins and Ellen Cooke. Nothing is known of his early life, and there are no records of his birth or baptism.
Morris married Catherine Flanagan on February 2, 1838, in the old Saint Andrew’s Church in County Limerick (left: ruins of church). The Reverend John Bourke officiated, and the witnesses were Cornelius Flanagan (Catherine’s brother, or father?) and John Fitzgerald. In those days, girls usually married within their neighborhoods, so it’s likely that Catherine was born in Limerick. There are no birth or baptism records for Catherine. Catherine was probably close to Morris’ age.
Morris and Catherine lived in Limerick after they were married. They had nine children while they lived in Ireland. Here are the children’s names and baptism years (no civil birth records exist for Ireland until 1864. Only church records are available). These are from Bulgaden Church, three miles from Limerick.
Apr. 30th 1840
Margaret, witnessed by Michael Higgins & Ellen Cooke.
Helen, witnessed by Cornelius Flanagan & Bridget Moore.
July 17th 1843
Cornelius, witnessed by Patrick Keal & Catherine Mahon?
June 19th 1845
Timothy, witnessed by Michael Higgins & Anna Clarke.
March 19th 1847
Julia, witnessed by Jacob Coffer & Bridget Moore.
June 4th 1848
Michael, witnessed by Michael & Ellen Higgins.
There were two other boys, Morris Jr., born c. 1840, and John, born c. 1844. Their baptism records have not been found.
Morris emigrated to the U.S. alone in 1850 and settled in Hudson, NY. He worked at the Hudson Gas Works. In 1853, he sent for Catherine and two of the boys (Morris and John). In 1854, daughter Ellen came over with Cornelius. In 1854, the last child, Michael Francis Higgins, was born in Hudson, NY. He was the first Higgins in our family to be born in the U.S.
As for the other children born in Ireland, what became of them is not yet known as of this writing (February 8, 2013). It is likely that they all died during the potato famine, because they were never sent for, even after the whole family had settled in Hudson and were all working. Surely there would have been enough money to send for the rest of the family, but no one did, which can only mean the remaining children did not survive.