Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
I've been researching the surname of Heenan since the late 1990s when I decided I would try to piece together the family history as ruby wedding gift for my parents.
What I discovered was that "our" branch of the family came from Knocknascrow, a township in County Limerick near to the border with County Cork. My great great grandfather Patrick Heenan left Ireland to settle in South Wales sometime between 1867 and 1868, setting up home in the iron-making town of Rhymney.
What started at a very local level grew into a study of the surname Heenan wherever it occurs in the world.
I've gathered a lot of data from birth, marriage, death records and census returns in Wales and England. These have confirmed that the Heenan surname study is of relatively small scale.
There were 1057 people with the surname Heenan whose births were registered in England and Wales between 1837 and 1975. In the same period there were 688 marriages and 601 deaths
I am in the process of using this information to reconstruct some families and to follow their paths if they left England and Wales to settle overseas.
The next step will be to repeat the exercise for records in Ireland and Scotland.
Variations of HEENAN include: O'Henaghan, O'Hennegan, O'Henehan, and without the prefix as in Heanaghan, Henehan, Henihan, Hennigan, Henaghan, Henaughan, Henekan, Heanan and Henan.
At present I am focusing on the name HEENAN without its variants.
The surname is frequently transcribed incorrectly in indices - the most frequent errors are Keenan and Heeman.
Meaning of the Heenan surname
Opinions differ on the origin and meaning of the surname Heenan.
According to the American Dictionary of Names Heenan is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó hÉanáin (descendant of Éanán). In Irish Names and Surnames, published 1903, the Rev Patrick Woulfe, described it as a form of Ó hEidhneáin, which he derives from a diminutive of eidhean, meaning ‘ivy’. He also indicated that Heenan is sometimes a reduced version of Heneghan.
A different source (namely surnamedb.com) describes Heenan as an ancient Irish surname from the 13th century. It is thought to be a nickname or metonymic, and to supposedly owe its derivation from the early Gaelic word "ean" meaning a bird.
This interpretation links Heenan to the ancient name of O'hEeanchain, which loosely translates as "The descendant of the son of the Bird". Who the "Bird" was and how he became so named, is not known, but since it was normal for Gaelic surnames to descend from the original chief of the clan, it may be that the Bird was a hunter or hawker or a bird trainer.
The surname HEENAN appears to originate in Ireland. Even there it is a relatively uncommon surname.
The Griffith's Valuation in Ireland, which itemised owners of property including land between 1847 and 1864, shows 132 households where the property owner bears the surname. The majority of these were in County Tipperary and County Down. Although most of the other counties had property owners bearing the name Heenan these appear to be one or two families per county.
By the time of the 1901 census the number of Heenan households In Ireland had declined to just 70 across the whole of the island. The majority of these (31) are still in County Tipperary with County Down the second most populous (15 households). The 1911 census saw a further decline to 67 households.
Migration patterns show that the most popular destinations were New Zealand, Australia, North America and the UK mainland.
In the UK, by the time of the 1881 census there were just 241 individuals bearing the surname Heenan, making it the 10843th most common surname. The largest number of these were in England which saw the period of greatest growth between the two census years of 1881 and 1891. This period is many decades after the famine in Ireland which was a major contributor in migration.
In Wales, there were no individuals with the surname of Heenan until the census of 1871 although birth and marriage records indicate there were a few people within the country by the late 1860s. Thereafter the numbers increased at a very modest pace, remaining in double digits even into the 1930s.
From the late 19th century it's evident that people with the surname Heenan began to move more widely within the UK. A comparison of data collected via Public Profiler for 1881 with that for 1998 shows how the frequency of the name increased in Scotland and the industrial heart of England with a clustering in South Wales and the adjacent counties in England.
There was a distinct jump in Heenans who headed across the Atlantic in the mid 1850s and lasting until the early 1870s. Most of these immigrants settled in the north eastern states but there were small clusters spread across most of the states by 1920. The majority of these people became farmers and labourers. Today within the United States the Heenan name ranks 12,610 out of 88,799 surnames with a frequency of 0.001%. Source: http://surnames.behindthename.com/info/names
The data I have captured to date includes:
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