Jemima Harrison, daughter of Joseph Harrison and Ellen Ball, was born at her parents home at 22 Wood Street near Chapel Road in Wigan on 11 August 1865. She was baptized in St. Thomas Church on 17 December. Within two years the family moved to 6 Byrom Street in Poolstock, the neighbourhood where generations of the Harrison family would live for the next hundred years. The family later moved to 31 Pool Street and then 64 Pool Street in Poolstock.

Jemima attended school as a girl, and would normally have left school at age 14. By the age of 15, according to the 1881 census, she was employed as a weaver in a cotton mill. At the time of the 1891 census Jemima, age 25 was still working as a weaver and living with her family at 54 Poolstock Lane.

Jemima’s mother, Ellen Ball, died of emphysema in December 1893 when Jemima was 28 years old. The family was living on Swinley Street at the time.

On 31 July 1895 Jemima married Joseph Woods at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Wigan. The marriage record lists Jemima living on Swinley Street employed as a weaver, and Joseph living on Swann Street employed as an overlooker, or foreman. After they were married Joseph and Jemima lived at 22 Oldfield Street in Poolstock for several years. Their children Roland and Gladys were born at 22 Oldfield Street in 1897 and 1902 respectively. The 1901 census enumerated Jemima, Joseph and Roland living at 22 Oldfield Street the year before Gladys was born.

Sometime after 1902 the Woods family moved to 8 School Terrace in Golborne south of Wigan where Joseph took up work as an overlooker in a local textile mill. In January 1909 Gladys contracted diptheria and died at 8 School Terrace at the age of 6-1/2. Sometime thereafter the family moved to 69 Heath Street in Golborne where they were enumerated in the 1911 census.

Jemima’s young niece, Doris Whitfield (later Darbyshire) spent the holidays visiting the Woods family at 69 Heath Street, probably in 1909 or 1910. Doris, the daughter of Jemima’s sister Elizabeth, would have been nine or ten years old at the time. We might speculate that Jemima was comforted to have her young niece stay with her for a time shortly after Gladys’ death.

Many years later Doris memorialized her stay at the Woods home in a poem called The Photo Album, which tells us something of Jemima’s living circumstances at the time.

In my Aunt’s house on holiday,
For weeks with her I stayed.
When it rained, up in the attic,
I and my cousin played…

But, not up in the attic,
Was the object that I craved,
On a table, in a corner,
Of the ‘Drawing Room’ it laid.

It was the Photo Album,
Which in smart and modern way,
Every family of consequence,
Showed off in proud display.

From the poem we learn that Jemima and her family were relatively well-to-do for working class people of that time, a “family of consequence” as Doris expresses it. We also know this because their house had a Drawing Room, a clear indicator that they were better off financially than the average family.

So it is somewhat puzzling that a few years later, in June 1913, Joseph suddenly left Golborne and emigrated, eventually settling in Montreal.

Source Documents


  • Occupation: 1881-04-03 ; Weaver in a Cotton Mill.

    Per 1881 Census.

  • Occupation: 1891-04-05, Probably Swan Meadows or Trencherfield; Weaver at a Cotton Mill.

    Per 1891 Census.

  • Occupation: 1895-07-31, Per Marriage Registration; Weaver.
  • Residence: 1897-04-22, 22 Oldfield Street, Poolstock, Wigan; Joseph & Jemima Woods family home.

    Per Roland Woods’s Birth Certificate.

  • Residence: 1901-03-31, 22 Oldfield Street, Poolstock, Wigan; Joseph & Jemima Harrison family home.

    Per 1901 Census.

  • Residence: 1911-04-02, 69 Heath Street, Golborne, Lancs; Joseph & Jemima Woods family home.

    Per 1911 Census.

  • Residence: 1930-05-16, 43 Wicksteed Avenue, Mount Royal, Montreal; Roland Woods' home.

    Per Jemima Harrison’s Ship Passenger List, returning from a visit to England.