Isabel Fife


The name of Isabel Fife was listed on the census of 1790 in the uphill section of Albany's first ward. Her household included two boys under sixteen years of age. This women died in Albany and letters of administration were issued on her estate in August 1794.

We believe she was the Isabel Fife who came to America on the ship Glascow Packet in April 1775. She was identified as a twenty-seven-year-old resident of Paisly, Scotland and was accompanied by a child. She was headed for New York and "going to her husband."

Probably not finding her spouse, she finally settled in Albany where her son learned the woodworker's trade and then went to New York. Known as Duncan Phyfe, he became a chairmaker and later one of the most important furniture manufacturers in the new American republic.

At administrator Duncan's request, Isabella Phyfe's estate was inventoried following his mother's death. Her possessions included household items, clothing, and 45 pounds 10 shillings in cash - all totalling 76 pounds 9 shillings and 4 pence! From her effects, perhaps she had supported herself sewing, washing, or performing other domestic chores.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Isabel Fife has not been assigned a CAP biography number. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. Internet expositions have begun to shed light on her background. Fife, however, makes no provision for a son named Duncan.

first posted 8/02; last revised: 8/1/07