Today, for the first time, I’m featuring a woman.
Kate Mary Heenan
The first mention I found of this lady was a baptism record in Bengal, India, where her husband Robert was a civil engineer working for the East India Railway Company. The couple had two sons while they were in Bengal:
- George Charles John Heenan, born 1855
- Robert Alexander Heenan born 1860
Further research lead me to a record of the couple’s marriage in Drumcannon, Waterford in the second quarter of 1853. Kate’s family name was Duigan and her father was Samuel Duigan.
I also located copies of the wills of both Robert Heenan and Kate Mary. His will mentions two sons (their names are not given) but hers names two daughters: Harriette and Edith. According to the 1891 census for England, Edith was born in about 1871 in Ireland but I have not been able to confirm this. It’s curious why Edith would have been born in Ireland, not India.
Robert died at Mooltan, Punjab, on 26 July, 1873. A notice announcing his death appeared in the Kings County Chronicle on September 11 that year with an extensive obituary in October. The reports establish the family connection with Ireland, and specifically with the town of Parsonstown, which was then Kings County. It also shows that Robert was a doctor’s son and a member of a family – the Hammersley Heenans – who boasted a number of civil engineers.
He and his wife arrived in India only a few months after their marriage, initially based in Calcutta but then spent most of their time in Bhaugulpore, on the banks of the Ganges. The couple spent some 20 years in India.
Although he died in India, the will was proved for probate purposes in the Principal Registry at Dublin. Administration of the will was granted to another member of the extended family, Robert Hammersley Heenan, acting as as attorney to Kate Mary Robert. One of the two signatories to the will also has a connection to that town: John Julian, a solicitor described as being of Parstonstown and Dublin.
Robert bequeathed to his wife “absolutely and forever ” all his estate, valued at under £300. His only stipulation was that his sons be educated and raised in the Protestant faith.
Kate Mary Heenan, the widow
When Robert died, Kate Mary was 41 years old and had three or four children. The eldest George was 18 years old and may have been in employment by them but she had one daughter, Edith, who was just two years old at the time. I would have expected her to live close to her own family, the Duigans in Waterford, or with her in laws the Heenans in Parsonstown so that she could get support to raise the children.
But at the time probate was granted, Kate Mary’s address was documented as Carysford Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin. She subsequently moved to England – in the 1891 census she is 60 years old, residing in a boarding house in Brighton, Sussex and “living on her own means.”. She is said to have been born in Ireland. Also in the same boarding house is Edith Heenan, aged 20, a single woman born in Ireland and also living on her own means. The connection between these two women is not documented.
Edith died the following year, by which time she was living at West Alpha Villas in Margate, Kent. She named “my daughters Harriett and Edith and my brother Samuel Duigan” as executors.
She instructs them to pay one eighth of the estate to her son George Heenan and the remainder to be invested with equal shares to her daughters. She also makes provision in the event of the daughter’s marriages and any children they might bear.
Finally she gives the trustees power to leave her securities in their current investments but also to consider other securities in land, or mortgages in the UK or Ireland.
The curious thing about the will is that there is no mention of her other son, Robert Alexander. Had he already died by 1892?
Edith herself never married. She died in South Kensington in 1935 . She left her estate, worth £2644 to her nephews Garth Eric Vaughan Heenan and Brian Esbert Baddley Heenan (see a recent article about these two men). What happened to Harriette I have yet to establish.
Can you help?
There are many gaps in my knowledge about Kate Mary Heenan (nee Duigan). Do you have any information that might help answer some of my questions:
- Where and when were her daughters Harriette and Edith born?
- If Edith was born in Ireland as stated on the 1891 census then why was Kate Mary in Ireland at that time? We know her husband continued to work in India until his death. Did Kate Mary visit Ireland on a holiday? or did she move to Ireland, leaving her husband in India.
- What happened to Henrietta – did she survive until adult hood? Did she marry? Why wasn’t she also on the 1891 census in Brighton?
- Why did Kate Mary move to Brighton? Was there a particular connection to the town – and also to Margate – where she was living when she died.
If you know any of the answers or would enjoy speculating along with me, just leave a comment….