Here is another episode in a series of blog posts as part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge. I’m using this to write about some of the thousands of Heenans I’ve found in my researches.
Francis John Heenan
Francis John was born in England, but just like millions of other young men, he saw an opportunity for a better life in North America.
He was the son of Martin Heenan, an Irish-born railway porter working for the Great Western Railway in the South West of England. Martin and his wife Eliza Blackler had eight children – Francis John, born in 1892, was their seventh. In 1911 when he was 20 years old, he was living with his parents in Dartmouth, Devon and working as an apprentice fitter, for a ship building company called Phillip and Son.
In 1920 he left England and arrived in New York on the steamship Saxonia. With him was his widowed mother Eliza, and his younger brother Cyril Elliott. All three gave their residence location as Akron, Ohio. Francis described himself as an engineer, Cyril as a clerk while Eliza’s profession/calling was described as “domestic’. This was the second transatlantic crossing for Cyril – in his naturalisation petition lodged in 1923, he declared he had arrived in New York in 1916. Perhaps he went to check out the opportunities available before his brother and mother made their departure?
All three established a new home in Akron, Ohio, sharing a home at 26 Ido Avenue. By 1927 Francis was employed in the local rubber industry. The nature of his occupation isn’t documented in the 1927 naturalisation petition but the federal census of 1930 tells us he was a foreman in a rubber company. His brother Cyril was occupied as a labourer in a rubber mill that same year.
Their connection to the rubber industry is not surprising. Four major tyre companies – Goodyear, Firestone, General Tire and Goodrich – had established their headquarters in the city beginning in 1869. Their presence gave the city the nickname “Rubber Capital of the World”. During the decade 1910–1920, Akron became a boomtown, being America’s fastest growing city with a 201.8% increase in population. Of the 208,000 citizens, almost one-third were immigrants like the Heenans.
Eliza died in Akron on 7 April 1925, from bronchial pneumonia, at the age of 65. She was buried in Glendale Cemetery, Ohio
Another of her sons also left England to settle in Ohio. George Frederick Heenan, an engineer, travelled with his wife, son and daughter on the Mauritania in 1929. By 1940 he was settled in Akron where he worked as a machinist. He died in 1966.
Cyril Heenan died in Miami, Florida in 1978.
What happened to Francis John?.
He married shortly after arrival in the USA, in Summit County, Ohio, to Rose Violet Lilley. They had two sons. The first Jack Francis died in 1928, at three years of age. The following year, Rose gave birth to another child Richard V Heenan.
I haven’t been able to locate Francis or Rose in the 1940 federal census but in 1942 we know they were still living in Ohio. A World War 2 registration card in the name of John Francis Heenan shows that he is living at 153 E Maple Dale, Summit County . He is 50 years old and still working in the rubber industry; his employer is the tyre company B.H Goodrich & Company.
In 1957 he and his wife made a return visit to the UK. They are among the list of “Alien” passengers arriving at Southampton from New York on board HMS Queen Mary on May 13. They identify themselves as USA citizens whose future permanent address is within USA. They are planning to visit the UK for 3 months, giving an address in Fulham, London.
At some point the family move from Ohio and settle in Orange County, California. Francis died there in February 1968 and is buried in El Toro Memorial Park cemetery, Lake Forest. Alongside him is his wife Rose who died in 1977.
- The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1380
- “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JPLV-RPL : 20 May 2014), Francis Heenan, Feb 1968; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
“California Death Index, 1940-1997,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPH9-DC4 : 26 November 2014), Francis J Heenan, 19 Feb 1968; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.
13 December 2015), Francis J. Heenan, 1968; Burial, Lake Forest, Orange, California, United States of America, El Toro Memorial Park; citing record ID 104941402, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com.
- Ohio, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1977: Summit County, Cuyahoga, Ohio, USA, File 8713. FamilySearch
- Census of England and Wales 1911, Devon, England RG14 piece 12812 accessed via Find My Past