The person I’ve chosen today is a man who illustrates that, no matter how much your research uncovers about an individual, there are always unanswered questions.
Let’s meet Benjamin Heenan
He was born in Lambeth, a district of London, around 1813/1816. I can’t be more specific because of inconsistency in the ages he gives in various census years. He was the son of John Heenan, a tailor in the Lambeth area, and Mary Morris.
Benjamin appears in the 1841 census living with James Luckett, his wife Mary and daughter Sarah, in Princes Road, Lambeth, London. “Ben” as he is recorded, is 25 years old and said to have an occupation involving “law ” .
The following year he married Elizabeth Docker, the daughter of a surgeon, in the parish church of St Mary’s in Lambeth. Both are “of full age” and resident at Princes Road. Benjamin describes himself as “gent”, the son of John Heenan, tailor, deceased (John died in 1813).
By the time of the 1851 census Benjamin and Elizabeth are living at number 39 Princes Road (the modern day Black Princes Road) and have a servant. Benjamin gives his age as 38 (he’s gained 3 years since the 1841 census!) and is working as a solicitors’ managing clerk.
Ten years on and the family are still in the same property and Benjamin continuing to work in the same capacity.
Elizabeth died in 1865. There is no record of any children born to her and Benjamin.
He re-married two years later. This time his wife was Lucy Greasby, the daughter of a wine cooper. The couple had two children: Lucy born in Q1, 1868 and Alice Eliza born in 1873 and continued to live in 39 Princes Road, with Benjamin still working as a solicitors managing clerk according to the 1871 census.
Benjamin died at 39 Princes Road on 18th December, 1877 and was buried on the 22nd at Norwood Cemetery, Norwood Road in Lambeth. His wife Lucy was granted administration of his estate valued at less than £3,000.
Solving the mystery
The 1851 census showed that living next door to Elizabeth and Benjamin, at 38 Princes Road, was a John Emmanuel Heenan. He was 42 years old, born in Soho, and working as a solicitor’s managing clerk. In the same property are a daughter and two sons. Although John Emmanuel is described as married, there is no record of a wife in the house.
John Emmanuel had in fact married a Mary Docker in St Mary’s at Lambeth on February 22, 1831. His wife’s surname is the same as that of Benjamin’s own wife. Were they sisters?
The bigger question was whether Benjamin Heenan and John Emmanuel Heenan related. The similarity of their occupations and the proximity of their homes was surely a good indication that some relationship existed?
It wasn’t until I found the record of John Emmanuel’s baptism that this was confirmed. He was baptised on 22nd November 1808 at St Patrick’s in Soho Square. His father was named as Joannis Heenan and his mother named as Maria Morris: evidence that John Emmanuel was Benjamin’s elder brother.
One mystery solved. But another remained
What was Benjamin’s connection to the Luckett family with whom he was living in 1841?
James Luckett was said to be 80 years old. His profession/trade was recorded as “Army” though clearly at his advanced age he wouldn’t have been active. His wife Mary, was aged 60. Both were born within the county of Surrey.
There was clearly a family connection of some kind to the Lucketts. Both James and Mary Luckett were witnesses at the marriage of John Emmanuel Heenan. James Luckett is also a witness at Benjamin’s first marriage.
But what was the connection?
A marriage record for James Luckett provides I think the answer. On Jan 8, 1817, he married a widow – Mary Heenan – at St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, Southwark. Mary Heenan was the name of the wife of Benjamin and John Emmanuel’s father, John Heenan, the tailor. My hypothesis is that she remarried after her husband’s death and Benjamin, as the youngest son, took up residence in the home she made with her new husband James Luckett.
It may be that I’ll never be able to prove this but I’m reasonably confident that my hypothesis is correct.
- Ancestry.com. London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Church of England Parish Registers. London Metropolitan Archives, London.
- Ancestry.com. England, Pallot’s Marriage Index, 1780-1837 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2001. Original data: The original paper slip index, from which this database was created, is owned by The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Canterbury, England.
- Ancestry.com. London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-2003 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906 and Church of England Parish Registers, 1813-2003. London Metropolitan Archives, London.
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London.
- Census Returns of England and Wales, 1841. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO)
- Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO)
- Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO)