The first ancestor with the name of Heenan that I’ve been able to trace is my paternal great great grandfather Patrick Heenan who settled in the town of Rhymney. According to information provided on census returns, he came from Limerick county in Eire Exactly when he the first arrived in Rhymney or even in Wales is unclear however.
The first record I’ve been able to trace of him is in March 1868 when his son Patrick was baptised at St John’s Roman Catholic Church in Rhymney. The entry reads
Die 16 Martin 1868 baptizavi
Patricus Heennan filius Patricus et Helena Heenan (born) et die 16 Martin
Helena Heenan (olim OBrien)
conjugam a me Alfred Wilson (the priest)
Patrinus fuit: (godfather) Thomas Brown
Matrina fuit: (godmother) Margaret (Coghlam) surname could be Eaghlam
Patrick was about 23 years old at the time (though even this is questionable since he gave his age differently in each census return). His wife Ellen (or Helen) was a few years older and came from the same part of Ireland.
Had they only recently arrived in Wales or had they been living somewhere else first? There is no record of them in the 1861 census either in Rhymney or elsewhere in Wales or even England. It’s been impossible to discover their path because the Irish were not classed as immigrants and so were not recorded on any passenger logs. Popular routes were from Cork to Swansea or into Liverpool but that’s as far as I’ve been able to go. And the baptism records don’t give any indication of where they were living at the time – it may well have been with another Irish family of which there were a number in Rhymney.
It isn’t until the 1871 census that we get any real information. By then, they are living at Upper High Street, they have a second child – called Murial who is two years old. Patrick is an ironworker which is expected given that Rhymney was the location of the huge Bute ironworks which had opened in 1801.