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Researchers are fairly certain that the name 'Fother' is an old Scandinavian personal name. Bardsley in his work Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames (1901) adds that 'gill' refers to where he settled. In the Old Norse language 'gil' refers to a wooded glen, small ravine or brook. The Norwegians settled in and around Cuerdeale (Kendal, Westmorland County, England) between 865 and 955 AD. Though it is not known just when the name Fothergill came into being, it can be assumed that it was used to distinguish a man from the area in which Fother (whomever he may have been) had settled. Bardsley adds 'That Mallerstang Forest and Ravenstonedale in county Westmorland are the homes of this name, there can be no doubt'.

Surnames in general did not come into being of course until much later. They grew out of the need to secure hereditary tenure to ones land during that rather uncertain period of Norman rule. For this reason, a high proportion of early surnames were derived from the place where the family had its main residence. Some names were corrupted out of all recognition over time, especially when a family moved to a new area. The surname Fothergill has gone through many such changes. In England it can be found as Futhergill, Fuddergill, Fuydergyle, ffothergill, de Fothergill, and Fodyrgyll. The American branch had variations of the spelling such as Firthergill, Fathergale, Firthirgal, Furthingale, Furthirgale, and Ferdigal. With the large mixture of cultures and speech patterns, and the use of phonetic spelling, the surname Fothergill has taken some abuse. It's worth mentioning that these variations weren't used by members of the family but were rather misspellings on the part of others. Chances are that the present spelling is a relatively accurate compromise on the original.

In 1998, Richard Fothergill prepared an invaluable book called THE FOTHERGILLS A FIRST HISTORY. He asks the question, "Was that gill in Ravenstonedale, somewhere else in the vicinity or in another country?" He also reminds us that the Vikings were great sea-farers and spread throughout the northern part of Europe, including Normandy. Fothergill points to evidence that William the Conqueror was of Viking origin and ties this to the origins of the Fothergill family in Great Britain. A Sir George Fothergill was a general in Duke William's army. He was known as one of the greatest commoners in York, and as a great commander. He married Isabel, the sole daughter and heiress of William le Lucy of Folton and had five sons, all of whom were prominent in England. William would have undoubtedly surrounded himself with people of similar backgrounds and knowing that Sir Fothergill was of Viking origin lends credence to the theory that William was also of Viking stock. As payment for Sir George's service, William is said to have given him 'Tarn House' in Ravenstonedale in 1068, thus settling the Fothergill family in England. This book, available for 33.00 pounds sterling from RFG Hollett and Son, contains most of the early Fothergill lines in England and carries some of them down to the 20th century.

Many different Fothergill lines made the journey to America. One received a land grant in Virginia in 1654, one was brought to Virginia as a prisoner in 1732, another took an oath of allegiance in a Pennsylvania court house in 1802, still another was the captain of a slave ship during the 1840's. This is most likely a small sample of the Fothergill emigrants to the New World. This particular history will be about the family that settled in Illinois just prior to the Civil War.

The International Genealogical Index lists a Thomas Farrer Fothergill of Orton, Westmorland, ENG being baptised on 27 Jan 1785. Thomas' father was not listed but his mother Eleanor Fothergill was. Research into the wills of Morland, Westmorland, ENG show that a Thomas Fothergill left 40 pounds to "Thomas the son of my daughter Eleanor of Orton." He was illegitimate and Eleanor and her son are treated differently than her sisters in both this will and that of her uncle John Fothergill of Appleby. Little is known about Thomas' life prior to coming to America but we know from his marriage record that he was a laborer. He seems to have been helped considerably by his uncle John. John lived in Appleby and had all his children baptised at St. Lawrence Church there. Eleanor Fothergill married on 22 Feb 1789 in Orton to John Dodd, they would have six children. Upon reaching the age of apprentice, Thomas seems to have been shipped to his uncle in Appleby. There has been no apprentice agreement found but there is no doubt that Thomas became a resident of Appleby and attended St. Lawrence Church. He married Mary Rudham at St. Lawrence Church, on 10 Jun 1816. Mary was born in 1796 as per her age at burial which was at St. Lawrence Church Cemetery, Appleby, on 20 May 1826.

Thomas was a laborer in Appleby and, though not a rich man, he was able to afford to begin having children. They had six; Mary, b. 7 Dec 1817, Orton, Westmorland, ENG, of whom later; Ann bp. 14 Jun 1818, Appleby, of whom nothing else is known; Isabella, bp. 5 Dec 1819, Appleby, of whom nothing else is known; John bp. 12 Jan 1823, Appleby, of whom later; William, buried 23 Sep 1824, St. Lawrence Church, Appleby aged 17 weeks; Ann, bp. 6 Mar 1825, St. Lawrence Church, Appleby and buried 10 Apr 1826, St. Lawrence Church, Appleby.

Mary Rudham Fothergill died a month after the second daughter named Ann so either a disease took them both, or childbirth was too much and they slowly lost their strength and died. Though no records have been found for the first Ann and Isabella, it's probable they are also buried in St. Lawrence Church Cemetery having not survived childhood.

Thomas Farrer Fothergill arrived in America sometime between September 1849 and the summer census of 1850. Two of the children, Mary and John, made the trip to America as well, though at different times. Thomas came with his daughter and her young family and John followed a couple of years later. Why they chose Burlington Township, Kane County, Illinois as their final destination is unknown, but it's likely there were numerous people from Westmorland settling in Illinois.

The Oxford Guide to Family History [David Hey, Oxford University Press, 1993] states that "In the nineteenth century the pressure to move out of the North-West of England increased as they saw a huge rise in population. Over 5,000 agricultural laborers and female servants left the Cumbrian countryside during the three decades after 1851. The younger sons of farmers and rural craftsmen joined the laborers and servants in this mass exit. Those who moved were at first cautious in their movements. They tended to go only to the nearest town or industrial district where they probably knew other migrants and where the speech was reassuringly familiar. Following this first modest move the Cumbrian migrant sometimes decided to try his luck in an industrial town in a neighboring county. By far the greatest attraction was Liverpool. It was from this town that about two-thirds of the emigrants to America and other British colonies embarked." Though Thomas Fothergill was one of the earliest to make the move to America, this is still a good explanation for his journey.

It has been estimated that in 1790 about 78 percent of the white population of America were of British stock. The restoration of peace in Europe in 1815 allowed the unprecedented immigration of Germans and Scandinavians. Later in the century, Italians, Slavs, Jews, and Orientals swelled the coast of New York. These newcomers caught the attention of the press and later the historians, but this same area also witnessed an even larger influx of migrants from Great Britain. They tended to move further west than other Europeans, often creating whole towns were none had been and expanding the nations western border quicker than ever before [Hey, 1993].

In the first half of the nineteenth century the typical emigrants from Britain were young couples with children and although Thomas Fothergill was by mid-century an old man, he did not make the journey by himself. Mary Fothergill, eldest child of Thomas Fothergill, had married in 1838, in Orton, Westmorland, ENG to John Reed Ward. They had five daughters born in England, the last in September 1849. Mary's husband probably made the decision to emigrate to the new world sometime around 1848. It would have taken them time to gather the necessary money and documentation required too leave the country. Thomas may have decided that little was left for him in England and he may as well move to America with a family that would care for him in his declining years, or it could have been a decision made between John Reed Ward and John Fothergill with Thomas agreeing simply so that he could remain with his family, as there is no evidence that his other children were still alive.

John Reed Ward was warranted 160 acres in section 10 and 21, Burlington Township, Kane County on 15 June 1850 and appears on page 164 of the 1850 Kane County census as being 33 years old with wife Mary, five daughters, and Thomas Firthirgal age 60 listed as labor. Thomas contributed what he could, watched his grandchildren grow, and perhaps remembered his life in England and wondered what his wife would have thought about this great new adventure he was living. Being an older man, he decided not to become a citizen of the United States, but rather live out his days in Burlington as a subject of Queen Victoria.

Mary and John Ward had three more children once they settled in Burlington, making a total of seven daughters and one son. Their third daughter, Eleanor, died in 1851. They set aside a small portion of land near their farmhouse to be used as a family cemetery. At some point they surrounded the little enclosure with a wrought iron fence that has the name "Ward" on the gate.

Thomas' son, John Fothergill, emigrated from the port of Liverpool, arriving in New York harbor on 20 Apr 1854. John had married in England and his wife Elizabeth Middleton was expecting their first child during the voyage. John may have planned to come to America with his father and sister but did not want to loose the young Elizabeth to another suitor. He may also have read the reports of how great Illinois was and decided that once married he would join his fathers family before he would have to subject any children to such a perilous journey. It could also be that he had to finish a term as apprentice for someone so he couldn't leave with his father and sister. John and Elizabeth took up farming across the street from the Wards. They had less land but made it work. John had decided early on that unlike his father he should become an American citizen. His eldest child Thomas was born 31 Aug 1854 and he knew he would not be returning to England so he applied for citizenship on 17 Sep 1855. No doubt he was influence in his decision by his brother-in-law who had already applied but would not gain citizenship until 28 Feb 1859.

Thomas Fothergill's great American adventure came to an end in August of 1856. He was buried next to his little granddaughter, Eleanor Ward. It was probably after they buried Thomas that the fence went up. His plot became the southwest corner. The Ward family would have by this time begun construction on the grand Victorian farmhouse that still stands just yards from the cemetery.

It would take four years before John's naturalization papers would come through. He finally became a citizen of the United States of America on 26 May 1860. They had five more children in the next five years and things were really looking up for this family of immigrants.

The following year brought great changes. September of 1866 was particularly hard on the family as an illness entered the home. By October 15, John and his two youngest children had died within 15 days of each other. They were buried in the tiny Ward Cemetery at the foot of Thomas, their father and grandfather; one stone was raised for the three of them.

Elizabeth Fothergill now on her own with four growing children had some decisions to make. She could stay on the farm and try to make it work or she could marry another man and use his support to help raise her children. In May of 1867, Elizabeth Middleton Fothergill became Elizabeth Baker. John Baker had been born in England and had come to America in 1852 on the same ship as several pioneer DeKalb County families. Elizabeth moved, with the three younger children to Mr. Baker's farm near Charter Grove in Sycamore Township, DeKalb County, Illinois. The eldest son Thomas stayed in Burlington and is listed on the 1870 Kane County census, as living on the farm of a Mr. Robert Wellrath as farm labor. It was not uncommon in English society for a young man to accept an apprenticeship with another man and live with his family for the specified amount of time required to learn a trade. Farm apprentices usually only stayed with a family for one year but could stay as long as seven. It's unknown how long Thomas stayed at the Wellrath home but by the 1880 census he was no longer living with them.

On 12 Jul 1879, in Sycamore, IL, Thomas Fothergill married a young woman named Carrie Viggers, late of Albany, NY. They were listed on the 1880 DeKalb County census as living in Sycamore with a two month old unnamed daughter. Thomas was listed as an unemployed farmer and Carrie as keeping house. Something tragic must have happened in the next five years because Thomas was again married on 24 Dec 1885 in Genoa, DeKalb, IL to Thirza (Theresa) Jane Winans. No record on what happened to Carrie or her daughter has been found.

Thirza's family had moved out from Luzerne County, PA in 1848, settling in Mayfield Township, west of Sycamore. She was the first of Isaac and Betsy Elizabeth Christey Winans' children to be born in Illinois. Her father died in 1862 and Betsy had remarried to Richard Dalby of Genoa, IL and her younger children were educated there. Thomas and Thirza lived in Genoa about a year where Thomas united with the Methodist church in 1886. They then moved to Burlington, Kane County, IL, to raise their family.

Thomas and Thirza took up farming in this new local and had their first child, a son named Irving Easter Fothergill on 10 Apr 1887. Three years later they had their second son, Horace Wilson, on 25 Jul 1890. Being mechanically inclined Irving would later talk of old threshing machines he'd worked on when growing up on the farm. It appears they remained in Burlington until the two boys were old enough to leave home. Thirza probably wanted to move a little closer to where her brothers and sisters were living; and she had nine of them. Both Irving and Horace attended the Burlington schools and moved to Sycamore when they were old enough. At approximately this same time period Thomas and Thirza moved to Charter Grove. They remained here only a few years and moved into Sycamore about 1903.

Irving Fothergill had taken a position in Sycamore with the Turner Brass Works in an effort to learn a trade that would support him throughout his life. On 29 July 1907, in Rockford, Winnebago County, Irving married a woman named Gertrude Florence Ballard. "Gerti" was the daughter of Edward and Mary Markey Ballard. Edward was a veteran of the Civil War, having served in Company "C" of the 142 Illinois Infantry Volunteers, and became a marble cutter in Sycamore after the war. Gerti had been born 6 Feb 1887 in Sycamore and had attended the schools there. All their married lives would be spent in Sycamore. Thomas and Thirza bought them a home for their wedding and they never left it.

Horace Fothergill had moved to Sycamore to become an electrician with Swanson Brothers. During this time he served a couple of terms as alderman in the days when terms were only for two years. In 1932 he became a patrolman with the Sycamore Police Department. At that time the department consisted of only two patrolmen who worked shifts of twelve hours each. Horace started as the night patrolman but quickly moved to the day shift. In the early 1940's Horace served a year as chief of police, a position that was being rotated among members of the force, each serving for a year. When parking meters were adopted and installed Horace was named permanently as meter patrolman and was serving in that capacity when he retired in 1960. Horace had married twice, the first in 1922 to Gertrude Spiers, of the Chicago Insulated Wire & Mfg. Co, who died that same year, the second to Violet Olmstead who died in 1949. Horace spent his adult life in the home his parents had purchased in Sycamore for themselves. When they died it became his.

Of the other children of John & Elizabeth Middleton Fothergill, Mary Fothergill married on 5 Dec 1872 to John W. Torry. The young couple farmed in DeKalb County until sometime between 1883 and 1889 when they moved to a farm outside of Collins, Story Co., IA. John and Mary Torry raised five children in Story County.

John M. Fothergill married May Chrystal of Burlington and returned to Kane County to spend his life on a farm. It would be interesting to see if the farm he spent his adult life on was the same that his father had purchased so many years before. John and May had one son, Jesse Fothergill who also lived his life on the same farm in Kane County. Jesse married but no children survived. Jesse talked about how the whole area was one vast forest when his family first arrived and on his property today remains what's left of an old lumber mill.

Elizabeth Fothergill married on 6 Nov 1875 in Charter Grove to John F. Moore of Genoa. They spent their lives in Genoa and raised two daughters, the future, Sylvia Listy and Emma Landis, both of DeKalb County.

John and Elizabeth Middleton Fothergill also had the two young boys that died at the same time as their father.