Family history research can often result in unexpected discoveries. None was more of a surprise than this week’s revelation that Heenan has been used as a first name and a middle name as well as a surname.
The discovery began with a man called Heenan Grey, who was born in Brizely, Norfolk, England in about 1864. His parents died when he was about four years old so he lived with an aunt. After his marriage he lived in Yorkshire, working as a clothes peg maker according to the 1881 census. By the time of the 1881 census he was living in a caravan in Newington, Kingston upon Hull, in Yorkshire, together with his wife and six children and occupied as a general hawker.
He was the first time I’d come across any individual with the first name of Heenan and I’ve no idea how he ended up with that name.
I thought he might have been a one off but to my surprise I’ve found six other individuals named in the same way in civil registration records for England and Wales births.
Heenan Charles Meggs, born 1860 in Edmonton, Middlesex, England
Heenan Holmes, born 1861 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England
Heenan Lovall, born 1861 in Pontypool, Monmouthshire, Wales
Heenan Leonard Tranter born 1875 in Newport, Shropshire, England
Heenan Tideswell, born 1861 in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, England
Heenan Gray, born 1958 in Leigh, Lancashire, England
Some further digging led to another discovery: Heenan was also used as a middle name. And this wasn’t just a practice in England and Wales since I also found records in Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. I haven’t yet checked records for USA and Canada but I suspect I will find more examples there.
My first thought was that the name could have been used as a mark of respect, a way of recognising the maiden name of the child’s mother.
But of the 52 instances I’ve found where Heenan was used as a first name or middle name, I can see only eight cases where Heenan was the mother’s maiden name.
It’s possible that a connection to the Heenan surname lies another generation or two further back but it’s going to require more research before I can confirm this (or rule out) the explanation.
Although my main interest remains in tracing the origins and spread of Heenan as a surname, this recent discovery could well provide some clues to help make connections to families I have found in other records. So it’s worth investigating.