I’ve been delving into the civil registration records for England to gain some insight about distribution of the Heenan surname over time.
Although civil registration began in 1837, the first record of a birth to a parent with the Heenan surname is recorded in 1837. Between 1838 and 2005 which is the latest date for which records are available, there are a total of 1195 births.
A closer look at the registration districts and the associated counties of these births gives an indication of the distribution of the surname and how it changed over the centuries.
In the nineteenth century, by far the majority of the births were in the industrial region of northern England, predominantly Lancashire and Durham which together accounted for 53% of the 258 births between 1837 and 1899. Northumberland and Yorkshire were also key locations, accounting for 11.6% and 9.7% of the births.
These are not surprising findings however – people settled wherever there was work available and in the coal mining sector in Northumberland and Durham and the textile and steel industries of Yorkshire there were plenty of opportunities. An analysis of the occupations stated in the census returns for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891, will help to either confirm or challenge my conclusions.
It’s worth recalling that Liverpool, in Lancashire, was also one of the principal ports of arrival in England for Irish migrants. Some of these families would have stayed in the area, but other births could be to parents who subsequently migrated.
The numbers in other counties were at a much lower level as can be seen from the chart below. Some of these – such as Lincolnshire, Devon – were agricultural economies so it will be interesting to look at whether the occupations stated in the census are related to those activities.
What happens over the course of the next 100 years is dispersement with births occurring in a much wider range of counties. The northern counties still predominate but there is a movement south to the middle of England, to the south west and the south east.
In the 20th century Lancashire remains the premiere county though at a lower level than in the previous century (20% versus 7%). When its neighbouring county of Cheshire (which includes the registration district for Liverpool) is included however, it is on a par with the earlier period. Yorkshire has witnessed almost a doubling of its share of the births – from 9.7% to 18.7%. The relative importance of Durham and Northampton have declined however.
Growth can be seen in London, particularly when the Greater London and surrounding counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex, etc are taken into account. The surname Heenan now appears in a much wider number of counties though the numbers are often very small – Cornwall, Dorset and Worcestershire for example saw one birth each for the whole century. In other counties where there are multiple births, they seem to be related to a specific family group who had multiple children rather than a cluster of individual families. Further work is needed to understand the data – my intent is to look at the figures on a decade by decade basis to determine when the changes occurred.
Note on methodology
This analysis is based on data downloaded from FreeBMD and verified with the records from the General Registration Office and Ancestry.com.
The numbers of births I’ve used for my analysis needs to be treated with some caution however.
- The figures for the 19th century are not for the whole century since tegistration did not begin until 1837.
- When registration was introduced in 1837 it was not clearly understood as a legal requirement. Therefore in the early part of the century, there may be some births missing from the records. As the century progressed, the accuracy of the data improves.
The registration districts used for the analysis was obtained from the three record sites mentioned above, I then mapped those to a county, using the list available from Free BMD. There were many changes in these districts between the two centuries and subsequently but I tried to standardise by using the county name given prior to the boundary and local government changes of 1974.