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.



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.

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


Heenan family in Rhymney: the early years

Until 1800 the settlement of Rhymney was largely rural. There were a few sheep farms and a few farm houses scattered along the hillsides.

All that began to change in 1800 when the foundations were laid for a huge ironworks. Over the next fifty years or so, the area was transformed into an industrial community of ironworkers and coal workers. Blast furnaces, steel works, churches, houses all sprung up to house thousands of people drawn to Rhymney by the prospect of work. They travelled from mid Wales,  from the nearby Sirhowy valleys and from across the English border from the Forest of Dean and Gloucester. They arrived too from Ireland having heard that that workers were needed to build railways. Empty coal boats returning from Cork brought hordes of labourers.

Among them came my great great grandparents.

The ironworks was a venture by a group of partners. john Lloyd’s Early History of he Old South Wales Iron Works said that the partners in the venture were Thomas Williams, Richard Cunningham who became the first manager, and Richard Crawshay of Cyfarthfa. in 1803 the three, together with Crawshay’s son Benjamin Hall and a Watkin George, they formed The Union Iron Works Co Ltd with a venture capital of £29,000. When Crawshay died in 1810, the works passed to Benjamin Hall and subsequently to his son Benhamin after whom the Big Ben bell in Parliament is named.

A new set of furnaces were built in 1825 on the opposite side of the river, on land belonging to the Marquis of Bute. The design was so unusual they attracted widespread notice. Drawings of them hung in the Royal Academy . The works suffered during the 1830s as a result of over-production around the country. In 1835 a new company was created known as the Rymney Iron Company which led to a rapid rise in population Most of the streets were to be built over the next 20 hers. In 1839 the Lawn Cpmpany Ship, the brewery and the Parish church were constructed

A key mover in all the developments was Andew Buchan, a Scot who had trained as a carpenter. he hd been engaged as a contracter to divert the course and deepen hthe bed of the river to make room for the Bute furnaces and as flood prevention. for this enterprise he employed Irish labourers –  their prescence led to rioting and soliers were quartered in huts to keep the peace. to provide for the navvies, Buchan gve them notes for the Carno shop for small amounts of groceries.

By 1838, according to the Rymney Iron Company annual meeting, noted that they had located on ‘what were before almost barren mountains, a population of 8,000 souls and increasing daily, they were bound to provide and endow a church’

Catholics did not get a school until 1863 when the Roman Catholic community erected one for 150 children.

In search of Patrick Heenan’s marriage

Discovering where and when my great great grandfather Patrick Heenan married is proving a mystery.

His first son Patrick was born in March, 1868 according to the baptism records of St John’s Roman Catholic Church in Rhymney, Monmouthshire. So I know he was living in Rhymney at the time though for how long is unclear (all I can establish with any confidence is that he wasn’t there are the time of the 1861 census since there are no families with the surname Heenan in Rhymney on that date).

Using his son’s baptism as a reference point, it’s possible therefore that he married either earlier in 1868 or before.  In the 1911 census – the first to record number of years a couple had been married – indicates he and Ellen had been married 45 years. That would put their marriage in approx 1866 (though if the information they provided to numerators for other census years is any test, I wouldn’t want to bet any money this was an accurate piece of information). But was this in Ireland or in mainland UK?

Limerick Regional Archives did a search of both the county and the city of Limerick for a marriage in the 1860s between Patrick and Ellen O’Brien on the basis that both partners stated their area of birth was Limerick. But failed to find anything. They also searched for me a marriage of a Patrick Heenan to any bride with the first name of Helen or Ellen irrespective of the maiden name. But again drew a blank. Their conclusion was that any marriage was more likely to have taken place in England or Wales.

But my search of the marriage records for England and Wales doesn’t show any relevant marriages  between a Patrick Heenan and a bride with the name of Ellen/Helen O’Brian/O’Brien or any variation of that. There are numerous Heenans in the Liverpool area but none with a match to a bride of that name. Maybe they never got married? It’s a distinct possibility……….

Arrival of the Heenans

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.