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.


William Burton: A Soldier’s Story

william burton - WW1

William Burton. 7th Batallion, South Wales Borderers (left) with wife Ada.

As we approach the centenary year of the outbreak of World War 1, it seems fitting to reflect on some of the war time experiences of my great great grandfather, William BURTON.

William enlisted for service on September 1, 1914, travelling from his home at Abertysswg to Newport to join the South Wales Borderers. Unlike many of the other men who made a similar trip that day and in succeeding months, he already had experience of serving as a soldier. At the age of 18 he had enlisted with the Royal Worcestershire Regiment and went on to serve with them for eight years as a drummer and then as a reservist for a further four years. During his time with the colours, he saw active service in the Boer War, South Africa, between 1902 and 1903.

In 1914 William was working as a coal miner and living at 32 Charles Street, Abertysswg with his wife Ada (nee CREWS/CROOSE) and their three children: Elizabeth, Henry and Ellen (my grandmother).

Shortly after his enlistment he was attached to the 7th batallion of the South Wales Borderers and subsequently sent for initial training. The location is unclear – the official history of the Borderers shows they were stationed variously in 1914 at Seaford and St. Leonards on Sea in Sussex. In May 1915 the batallion moved to Aldershot prior to departure for France in September of that year as part of the 22nd Division of the British Expeditionary Force.

The war diary of the batallion shows they landed at Boulogne on September 6 and then marched towards the lines along the Somme. They were one of the most fortunate of batallions, escaping serious loss of life and injuries during their 3 months at the Front. Most of the diary entries are about training, gas demonstrations and inspections rather than attacks though they did experience some shelling incidents.

On October 1, 1915 while on the road between Vauvilliers  and Framerville they did come under fire. The commanding officer noted:

The battalion went to Hot Baths at Harbonniers in the morning

The battalion marched from here to Framerville at 3pm.  The road is open to shell fire for about 1/2 mile. Platoons were at 100 paces intervals and when the leading platoon had crossed the danger portion, the Germans opened on the road with shrapnel – several shots fell short and one too far over. None hit the road. the battalion was lucky to get over without casualties.

More serious incidents occurred a few weeks later. On October 11 two lieutenants went on early morning reconnaisance to a sniper’s post

…it was exceedingly difficult to locate and Lieutenant Wiguard had constructed a special observation post and had watched many hours to try and locate it. ….they were fired upon and saw 4 Germans in a concealed trench. The two officers then moved to a flank but temporarily lost the position of the trench which had been given away again by one of the Germans firing. Ltd Davies then threw a Mills bomb timed exactly which exploded in the air in the trench, Two Germans only came out – one running straight for the German lines whilst one followed Ltd W Wiguard fired two quick revolver shots at him whether wounded or not was not ascertained – but as daylight was appearing rapidly the officers returned at one to our lines – it was reported to the brigadier who congratulated the two officers upon their enterprise

The following day, the officer recorded the death of  a Private Buck who was killed by a sniper. Private Thomas Buck, number 18357 from Newport, was aged 29 at the time. And then on October 20, Second Lieutenant C G (Claude Gladstone) Robinson was killed in a trench about 20 yards behind the front line – he was shot through the head and died an hour afterwards.

Within 24 hours, they batallion received news of new orders – they were to prepare immediately to leave France and to join the forces holding the Serbian front. William set sail from Marseilles on HMT Lake Manitoba on October 30, 1915. He arrived in Salonika on November 7, 1915.


Heenan footprints in land records

In the absence of census records in Eire for the period between 1821 and 1851, I started to look at some of the records relating to land use and property.

The Tithe Applottment Books available on line at the National Archives of Ireland are a useful source of information though not as comprehensive as census information.  Occupiers of agricultural land above one acre in size were required to pay a tithe to the Church of Ireland (the established church). The applotment books were compiled between 1823 and 1837  to determine the amount of the tithes payable by each occupier in each parish. They record name of the occupier,  the amount of land held and the sums to be paid in tithes.

patrick heenan tithe recordLooking at the books for the parish of Kibeheny in County Limerick (the area where ‘my’ Heenan ancestors seem to have originated, shows some interesting information.

There is a Mickl Heenan recorded as an occupier of a plot of what s described as 15 acres of ‘good mountainside’ in the township of the Carrigeen Mountain. At 15shillings per acre, the total value of the property is £11 and 5 shillings., giving a tithe composition of just over 9pence per acre to be paid to the Reverend John Preston.

Further records show occupiers with the surname of Heenan at Coolatin Glen and also at Blackrock.

Surname First Name Townland Parish County Number of acres value of land Condition
Heenan Patk Coolatin Glen Kilbeheny Limerick  15  £15 Good mountain Tillage
Heenan Marcus Coolatin Glen Kilbeheny Limerick  20  5 shillings  Mountain
Heenan John Coolatin Glen Kilbeheny Limerick  15 £15  Good mountain Tillage
Heenan Dens Coolatin Glen Kilbeheny Limerick  15  £15  Good mountain tillage
Heenan Michl Blackrock Kilbeheny Limerick  20  5 shillings  Mountain

Unfortunately there is no information in these records about other members of the household or where the plots of land are in relation to each other. But it may be possible to cross reference them with Griffiths Valuation records.

Remembering William Burton

w burton medal index record“Nobody had the sense to ask him. ”  That comment explains why there are so many gaps in the story of William Burton (my paternal great grandfather) and his experience in World War 1 and the earlier Boer War.

Until I began tracing his story, no-one in the family had any idea that he had served on the French/Belgium front; as well as in Salonika and in Egypt during the Great War. That information only came to light through his war pension records. So here was a man who lived in a small village in Wales but who had seen parts of the world that many of his neighbours and also his children could only imagine. Yet he never talked about them and my mother’s comment that no-one thought to ask ‘What did you do in war?’.

What else do we know about William beyond what the official records tell us?

My mother’s recollections provide some tantalising fragments.

He would always wash outside in the yard, stripped down to his waste, using a pail of cold water

He went out once a week to the club and had one pint of beer

He was a member of the Buffs

He wore a muffler crossed at the neck (like most of the miners at the time)

On Remembrance Day he carried the standard through the village of Abertysswg

‘He loved talking about books and showed me his love of books’

On his illness in later life, when he seemed to develop what we now know as Alzheimer’s disease, she remembered that he would often get up early in morning and would walk to Rhymney (about five miles away) to visit his wife’s grave.  One day, she went with him. ‘We were there one day and it was getting light and a policeman came to ask if we were alright. ”

Shortly after he went into hospital. the incident happened she thought about 1950 when he would have been in his seventies.

And his war experience? ‘We assumed that he’d had an injury.”  There was a dresser in her grandparents house that contained his medals ‘wrapped in dark green cloth – may have been velveteen – and then in brown paper. I saw them a few times but we were never allowed to touch them.’


Further Ireland research Burials, Marriages

Burials and Marriages 

Using the Roots Ireland search options, I found

Church Burial record for Ellen Heenan in 1850. However this is for a church in Limerick city so is unlikely to have a connection

1904 Death of a Denis Heenan, in Coolathin. Father is Patrick Heenan. This is more of a match with ‘my’ Heenans. Coolathin is a townland within the parish of Mitchelstown. The barony is Coshlea and the civil parish is Kibehenny. Poor law parish is Mitchelstown

The other death record is for Patrick Heenan, also of Coolathin.

Civil Death Record – Denis Heenan

Batchelor (previously unmarried) Age 37

Date of Death 25 Jan 1904

Address Coolathin

Parish/district Mitchelstown, county Limerick

Occupation: Farmer’s son

Informant: Patrick Heenan (father) of same address

cause of death: blood poisoning

Civil Death Record – Patrick Heenan

Age 77

Date of death 10 Jan 1911

Address Coolathin

Parish/district Mitchelstown, county Limerick

Status: widower

occupation: farmer

Informant: Nora Heenan – daughter of same address


Marriage Records – using Roots Ireland

Church Marriage  4-Feb-1825 in Parish of Kilbehenny; Jane Heenan of Carrigeen to Thomas Hanlon . Witness is Catherine Heenan

Church Marriage: Dennis Heeneen (sic) 1828

Church Marriage:  15-Feb-1829 in parish of KILBEHENNY Michael Heenan to Catherine Walsh of Carrigeen

Church Marriage: 06-Mar-1832 parish of Kilbehenny John Heenan of Coolattin to Mary Mullane

Church Marriage: Catherine 1839

Church Marriage: Mary 28-Feb-1843 KILBEHENNY to Richard Lewis. No father’s name given other than Heenan. Witness is Dennis Heenan

Church Marriage: Mary  Heenan 19 – Jul 1855 to John Cronekan in Parish of Kilbehenny. Father’s name given only as Heenan. Witnessed by Thomas Heenan

Church Marriage: Margaret 1857 ST Michael’s  John Kennedy.

Church Marraige 19-Feb-1859 parish of Kilbehenny. Maurice Heenan to Johanna Fox

Heenan family: The Irish Connection

On UK census records, Patrick Heenan and his wife Ellen give their birth place as Limerick Ireland. Research I commissioned from Limerick Regional Archives showed that the surname Heenan is unusual in the county and largely converges on the parish of Kilbeheny and in particular the townland of Knockascrow.

1901 Census

1910 ireland census HeenanThere are eight people with surname Heenan living in house number 3 in Knocknascrow – ranging in age from 10 to 50.Head of the family is Patrick Heenan, living with three sons and four daughters. He is shown as a farmer and a widower. There are nine houses in the township, a total of 54 people.

Heenan Patrick 50 Male Head of Family Roman Catholic
Heenan Denis 27 Male Son Roman Catholic
Heenan Mary 26 Female Daughter Roman Catholic
Heenan Patrick 24 Male Son Roman Catholic
Heenan Kate 18 Female Daughter Roman Catholic
Heenan John 15 Male Son Roman Catholic
Heenan Hanora 12 Female Daughter Roman Catholic
Heenan Ellen 10 Female Daughter Roman Catholic

The house has one wall, a roof of either thatch, wood or another perishable material (only two of the properties have a tile, iron or stone roof), The eight people occupy two rooms in the house. Patrick Heenan is shown as the landowner.

The farm has:


cow house







1911 Census

1911 census Ireland HeenanThe 1911 census shows that there was a family by the surname of Heenan living as farmers in house number 5 in Knockascrow . Farmers are designated in the enumerators instructors as ‘people who occupy the land’ – not to be considered the same as farm servants.

Patrick Heenan, aged 52

His wife Hannah aged 31

John Heenan, brother aged 23.

John may be the same John recorded in the 1901 census where he is aged 15. But the age of Patrick in 1911 doesn’t correlate to the Patrick who is head of household in 1901. Is this therefore a different Patrick?

None of the other individuals from 1901 are now visible – the children could have married and moved away and therefore have different surnames which would make them difficult to track. The male children could have moved to a different area of the county, or of Ireland or even out of the country.

The record shows that Hannah has no children living from the marriage. In the column headed Particulars as to Marriage – number of years of marriage, against her name is recorded the figure 1.

They are all Roman Catholic in faith and all can read/write

At the time there were 8 properties in the townland of Knockascrow, one of which is unoccupied, 37 inhabitants in total. All were Roman Catholic except for 7 people who were recorded as members of the Established Church of Scotland.

The house and building return shows that property number 5, occupied by the Heenans had one wall, a roof of either tile, slate or iron,  3 rooms and three windows in the front. There is no landlord’s name indicated – the supposition is therefore that the land was owned by the family rather than rented.

The farm had the following out buildings:

1 stable

1 coach house

1 cow house

1 piggery

1 fowl house

but no barn