A doggy tale….

irishbordercollieOver the years I’ve been researching my family and the surname Heenan I’ve encountered a wealth of records. None have been more unusual than the records of Irish dog licenses I discovered a few weeks ago. Who would have imagined that I would get to know my long lost cousins in County Limerick owned several dogs over the years and that they seemed to prefer collies to any other breed?

Dog licences were introduced into Irish law in 1865. The intention was to make it easier to identify the owners of dogs that were causing problems, for example by worrying sheep or damaging property, The first licences were issued in 1865. It cost 2 shillings for each dog but the applicant had to pay an extra 6 pence in administration costs.

FindmyPast tells me that in the first year more than 350,000 licences were issued across the Republic though this dropped to an average of 250,000 licences in subsequent years.  The majority of these were for working dogs – collies used as sheep dogs, mastiffs as guard dogs and terriers as hunters. But there was also a growing fashion for owning a pet so the records also show licenses issued for lapdogs and some toy breeds. 

Looking at the records for the whole of the Republic, the majority of the applicants with the surname HEENAN were in Tipperary, Cork and Waterford counties.  Within Cork, many of these applicants to the court at Michelstown were from individuals who actually lived just over the border in County Limerick, either at Knocknascrow or Coolattin. 

Over the course of 33 years for which records are available (between 1867-1910) two names occur regularly. Patrick HEENAN and Patt HEENAN between them made 28 applications, usually for collies. It makes sense since I know from Griffith Valuation records and later census records that the Heenans in this part of Ireland classed themselves as ‘farmers’. The fact there are two names could be a transcription error and actually refer to the same individual or the two applicants were related – potentially father/son or brothers. I’m confident however these were related in some way to my own great great grandfather Patrick HEENAN.

Dog licenses

I would love to know what names were given to the dogs but sadly these records don’t show this information though FindMyPast says that some entries do name the animals. But this is still a fascinating glimpse into my family’s past. 

Heenan research goals for 2018

Heenan research goals for 2018

I don’t make New Year resolutions as such but I do like to make a note of things I want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

Heenan One Name Study

Having put my One Name Study into the Heenan surname onto the back burner for the last two years while I dealt with a few health issues, I intend to return to it with new energy this year.   My key areas of focus for 2018 will be:

1. Complete data capture from core records for Wales and England. I’ve downloaded civil registration and census records from the various on line indices and collated these these into some spreadsheets (links are listed below). For 2018 I’ll be working on parish records. I also want to make a start on looking for family groupings.
2. Gather core civil registration records for Ireland and Scotland. I’ve made a start on collecting the civil registration records for Ireland but haven’t yet looked at Scotland. I will upload links to these when they are completed.  
3. Make preliminary evaluation based on 1 and 2 of surname distribution, occupations and migration. Having all the data is only really a means to an end – just having lists of names and dates is meaningless. What I want to do is examine what that data tells me about where people with that surname originated and whether they moved to any particular parts of the UK? Were there particular occupations they tended to pursue?
4. Re-ignite this blog. It has  been sadly neglected this past few years. I’d like to get into more of a regular pattern of posting updates and to include some biographies of the people I come across during my research. As I build some family trees I will also upload these.

My Family History

I had a breakthrough last year when I finally tracked down a marriage of my paternal great great grandparents Patrick Heenan and Ellen O’Brien. Now I know their fathers’ names I’m keen to see if I can I find them in any of the records.  I have a few gaps in the information for each of their children that I want to try and close. On my maternal side, the trail on the Burton line went cold beyond my great great grandfather William Burton – I think a trip to Hereford record office might help overcome the brick wall since it seems that’s where his father was born.

So some specific goals:

  1. Complete all birth, death and marriage records for each of Patrick/Ellen’s children. This will mean delving into Roman Catholic parish records
  2. Track down William Burton‘s father by searching vital records, parish records and census info
  3. Create family trees in Excel and post on this site.

Heenan Surname Data sets  (the links are to Google spreadsheets)

Heenan in Wales census 

Heenan in England census 

Heenan births, marriages, deaths in England and Wales(GRO data)

Who are you Mary Heenan?

Doing a deep delve into the census records for instances of the Heenan surname in Wales has thrown up a mystery.

The first record I can find for anyone with the Heenan surname is in 1861 when a Mary Heenan is recorded as resident in Brecon Road, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.

She was a child of approximately one year at the time of the census and was the niece of the head of the household Ambrose Neville and his wife Mary. Ambrose is a stone cutter born in Ireland, she was born in 1828 in Lantorman, Monmouthshire (I think this is actually Llantarnam). They have a son Patrick, aged 11 who was born in Scotland about 1850. Mary Heenan is recorded as being born in Pontypool, Monmouthshire in 1860.

The problem is I can’t find any other trace of this child.

There is no birth of a Mary Heenan registered anywhere in Wales let alone in Monmouthshire. In fact there are no births with surname of Heenan registered in Wales until 1864 when James Heenan is recorded as born in the Swansea area.

She doesn’t appear on any of the subsequent census returns for Wales.

Did she die in between the census years? Not according to the registered deaths for Wales or England.

Did her mother die or move around and May then take the name of her uncle/aunt? If she did, there is no record of that. The next time Ambrose and Mary make an appearance is as lodgers in St Woollos, Newport in 1871. There is no female living with them.

Did Mary move away? She may have done but as yet I’ve found no trace of her in any census in England. Or any death of a Mary Heenan born in about 1860.

Working on a theory that Mary Neville is Mary’s aunt, I was hoping to find her maiden name and work backwards from that but to no avail. No record of a marriage has materialised as yet.

Very frustrating. But I haven’t given up. I’m just hoping for inspiration……


Finding a father for Patrick

Just when I think I’ve made progress in tracking my great great grandfather Patrick Heenan in Ireland, I come up against another stumbling block.

I set myself a task earlier this year to find a record of his marriage to Ellen Brian (variations of Brien and O’Brien) and it seems I might have succeeded. I’d already drawn a blank in trying to find a marriage in Wales, England or Scotland so switched attention to Eire, thinking that they could have married shortly before leaving for mainland UK.

The only possible match is this one from 1867:

Patrick - ellen marriage

This might not fit the Genealogical Standard of Proof in its entirety but a few things make me confident that this is ‘my’ Patrick.

  1. Location of the marriage – Mitchelstown is the nearest location to Carrigeen mountains (home of the Heenans) where a ceremony could have been registered
  2. Patrick’s father is shown as Maurice – this name is also used by Patrick and Ellen for their second son
  3. Ellen’s father is shown as William – this was another name common in my family tree – my great grandfather was William as was his first son
  4. The marriage date is close to the time when I first pick him up in the records in UK – which is the baptism of a son called Patrick in March 1868

But then comes the question of linking Patrick with other records showing people with the surname of Heenan in the Kilbeheny parish in County Limerick. Some of these are land records, others are census returns but I also have received, via a Heenan descendant still living in Kilbeheny, a letter to one member of the family who emigrated to Australia.

Which is where it all gets a bit confusing as I try to connect them.

For example, Patrick’s father is a Maurice Heenan. I haven’t found anyone with that name in the Kilbeheny area but I did find a Marcus Heenan in the Tithe Applottment Books compiled between 1823 and 1837 who has 20 acres worth 5 shillings at Coolatin Glen.

There is a Maurice Heenan baptised Feb 1829 in Kilbeheny Parish, son of Denis Heenan and Ellen who are resident at Carigeen. It’s unlikely this Maurice is the same as Marcus (Maurice would be at most 8 years old at the time of the tithe records).

There is another Maurice Heenan baptised in Kilbehenny parish on Jan 1833, son of a John Heenan and Mary Mullan resident at Carigeen.

Could either of these be the father of ‘my’ Patrick? Possible but only if we ignore some of the info Patrick gave on census recors about his year of birth. The earliest date he gave is 1836 so impossible for him to be the son of either of these Maurice’s ( they would have been aged 7 or 3 at the time of his birth!). The latest date he gave in census returns is 1847 making his father 18 or 14 at the time. The latter is unlikely which rules out the Maurice Heenan baptised in 1833. But I still can’t prove that the Maurice baptised in 1829 is the right one.

I tried searching the Griffith’s Valuation Records which are later (they indicate who owned or rented land in Ireland between 1847 and 1864) but drew a blank on the name Maurice in the Knocknascrow townland.

I did find a Denis Heenan who was occupying land in Knocknascrow townland leased by Mary Heenan from the Earl of Kingston.

Griffiths Valuation 1852 - Denis Heenan - Mary Heenan


Griffith valuation 1852 - Mary Heenan - Knocknascrow

There are no records of any Maurice Heenan in Griffiths Valuation for the Kilbeheny Parish.

For now the trail seems to have gone cold….


Notable Heenans: Sir Joseph Heenan

Occasionally my news feed brings me little nuggets about various individuals around the world that bear the surname Heenan.

One that came to my attention today is from New Zealand and concerns Sir Joseph William Allan Heenan who was apparently a senior public servant, administrator and drafter of legislation. Born the son of a bootmaker and dressmaker in Greymouth, New Zealand on January 17 1888 he died on October 11 1951, two years after he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his service as undersecretary of Internal Affairs.

He used his legal talents not only for the benefit of his country’s government but for a number of sporting bodies. He re-wrote the rules of the New Zealand Racing Conference in 1931 and those of the New Zealand Trotting Conference in 1949, and twice revised the rules of the Boxing Association.  He considered the highlight of his administrative career to be the New Zealand centennial celebrations of 1939–40, of which he was chief executive officer.


This is an extensive biography of Sir Joseph Heenan and his illustrious career in New Zealand Biographies 


Rekindling the research

I’ve neglected this blog of late due to some medical issues. My research has been very intermittent too but just today I saw a challenge on the organise your family history blog that I hope will provide the spark I need to get back into the research mode. It’s a 30×30 challenge where you commit to spending 30 minutes a day for 30 days on research. The details are here 

I’ve missed the first few days of the month but its not too late to catch up.

So during the rest of the month I plan to do the following:

  • finish cleaning up all the sources in my Reunion files so they are labelled consistently
  • scan some photos of family members
  • chase up the records office in Ireland to whom I applied 2 months ago for a copy of a marriage certificate and have yet to have a response.

I’ll post updates as I progress.


Taking the next steps

I’ve taken my research into a different dimension in recent weeks by registering the surname HEENAN for a one name study via the Guild of One Name Studies. The idea is to document all instances of the name in as many parts of the world as possible so we can understand migration patterns.

it’s very early days yet but already i’ve made some discoveries. For example, I had expected the main density of people with this surname outside of Ireland would be around the ports of Liverpool and Merseyside.  But in fact it turns out that there were more clusters in Scotland. Looking worldwide I thought I would have found concentrations in North America and Australia, Surprisingly though New Zealand had more individuals than Australia. Looks like this One Name study is going to challenge my thinking and open up new ideas. Take a look at these maps for more information.

I’ve also been learning a little about the origin of the surname and its meaning.