Over 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.
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.