Henderson


Select Henderson Surname Genealogy

Henderson has Scottish roots.  It comes from the first name Henry or in Gaelic Earnruig.  Son of Henry became Henryson.  The Scots found Henryson a bit of a mouthful.  So Henderson emerged; and has remained.

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Scotland.  Unlike some Scottish clans, the Hendersons do not really have a focal point and have, through history and a diversity of origins, spread over Scotland and later overseas.  The Henderson name was to be found in the Shetland Isles, as well as in the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland.

Shetlands  Perhaps their old traditions have been best preserved in their remotest outpost, the Shetland Isles.  In the 1620's, Magnus Henderson of Nordic roots was the first there to take the Henderson name.  He became a patriarch of a large family which is traceable down to the present day.  Bruce Henderson from Yell has kept up the old art of story-telling; and traditional arts of fiddle playing and singing are still appreciated.  

Highlands  The Hendersons had held sway at Glencoe in the Highlands from early times.  The last Henderson chief at Glencoe was Dugald MacEanruig.  The leadership then passed through marriage to the MacDonalds.  But both were wiped out in 1692 by the English at the massacre in Glencoe. 

Many Hendersons had slipped away before that time.  One group established themselves in Caithness; others in the Lowlands, Robert Henderson at Fordell in Fife and various Hendersons at Liddlesdale and elsewhere in the Border country.  By the mid-18th century, Hendersons had spread to Caithness and Aberdeen in the north, to Fife and to Perth; but the numbers then had started to decline in the Borders. 

Lowlands  Hendersons in Fifeshire descended from a family of Henrysons in Dumfriesshire.  They date in Fifeshire from 1511 when they were granted land there and commenced building Fordell castle.  Alexander Henderson from this family was one of the drafters of the National Covenant in 1637, John Henderson a settler in Virginia in the 1740's.  The castle itself stayed in family hands until 1866.

Hendersons can be found in Kinclaven near Perth from the 1700's.  Dr. William Henderson gained renown and some wealth as the inventor of "Henderson's Stomachic Vegetable Elixir," a supposed cure for chronic indigestion.  When he died in 1870, he left in his will "Henderson's Mortification," a beneficiary fund for elderly distressed gentlefolk.

Perth also produced Hamish Henderson (or Seamus MacEanruig) who did much to revive traditional Scottish culture in the twentieth century.  After a nomadic early life, he returned home and lived for months with travellers, collecting and recording their oral repertoire of songs, ballads, and stories.  In the 1950's, he was instrumental in starting the People's Ceilidh, a forerunner to today's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Ireland.  The Borders were economically ravaged during the 17th century.  A large number of Hendersons took up the chance for a new life and new lands in Ulster.  They settled first in Donegal and then in Tyrone and Antrim. 

But many, discriminated against in their new homes, did not stay.  Another exodus began, this time to America and Australia.  Among those who left were Alexander Henderson and his family, in 1803, from Killybegs in Donegal to America; and Thomas and Mary Henderson and their infant son on the Sugar Cane as convicts to Australia.

England.  The surname was unknown in England prior to the 17th century.  It was first mentioned in a marriage document between one of the Borders Hendersons and the daughter of a Carlisle merchant at Hexham.  Scottish Hendersons later began moving to England, to Northumberland and to Durham where many became miners. 

There was a cluster of Hendersons along the Tyne river.  One family has traced its Hendersons back to Bedlington in the 1750's.  The splendidly named Charles Chipchase Henderson took over the Hexham racecourse on the Tyne in 1890 and made it a premier place for steeplechasing.

Further south in Yorkshire, a Henderson family had been clockmakers at the seaside town of Scarborough since the 1680's.  Their name appeared in the local press in tragic circumstances in 1791 when Robert Henderson, known as the sailing Quaker, was drowned in his coble in the sight of the whole town. 

America.  The Scots Hendersons first crossed the Atlantic in the 1650's.  The first influx was into Virginia. James Henderson was an early settler on the Eastern Shore.  A century later, the Virginian Alexander Henderson was a friend and confidant of George Washington.  His family settled in the Ohio valley where Henderson Hall still stands. 

A later and larger Henderson influx (including many more Ulster Scots) was into North Carolina.  A number became prominent.  One such was Richard Henderson, a pioneer merchant who hired Daniel Boone to open up the route to Kentucky for settlers: another, later, was James Pinckney Henderson who moved to Texas and became the first Governor of that state. 

James Henderson from North Carolina was granted land in Tennessee in 1787:

"Know ye, that we, for and consideration of the sum of ten pounds for every hundred acres hereby granted, paid unto our treasury by James Henderson, do give and grant unto the said James Henderson a tract of land containing two hundred acres lying and being in one county of Greene on the south side of the Nolachucky river."

His descendants subsequently moved onto Missouri and one son, who converted to Mormonism, to Nauvoo and Salt Lake valley.

Many Hendersons owned plantations in the South, in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and also in Mississippi and Louisiana: 
  • John Henderson had left his native Scotland in 1770 and was an earlier settler in Natchez, Mississippi.  The family plantation home there was Magnolia Hall.  
  • Stephen Henderson came out to New Orleans twenty years later.  He made his money, married well, and inherited the nearby Destrehan plantation.  However, his wife Zelia died young and he died a few years later.  The ghost of their owners are still said to haunt Destrehan manor. 
African Americans  There is a long history of African American Hendersons.  Some, like the Hendersons of Dudley, date from the early 1800's in North Carolina where there had been a free black population.  A marker in Meadville, Maryland is "dedicated to Richard Henderson who escaped slavery around 1824 and helped others in their own escape on the underground railway."  As did Ben Henderson later in Missouri. 

More Hendersons came from the plantations after emancipation.  Cornelius Henderson, whose family had migrated to Detroit, bacame an accomplished civil engineer in the 1920's at a time when racial prejudice was still strong.  Edwin Henderson, who lived around the same time, has been called "the father of black basketball."  More recently, Hendersons have distinguished themselves in American sports, in basketball, baseball, and football. 

Australia and New Zealand.  The first Henderson arrivals into Australia were convicts, more than fifty between 1790 and 1840 (Thomas and Margaret Henderson from Tyrone in Ireland are among the few whose lines have been traced).  The first free settler was probably Robert Henderson who farmed land near Lake Macquarie in the 1830's. 

Thomas Henderson was a pioneer settler in New Zealand, arriving in 1840 and starting his Henderson's Mill outside Auckland.  David Henderson from Fife arrived at the Nelson settlement in South Island in 1842.  The influx of Hendersons increased as the nineteenth century proceeded.

Select Henderson Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Robert Henryson was a fifteenth century Scottish poet of fables.
Alexander Henderson, a Presbyterian minister, drafted the National Covenant in 1636 and was largely responsible for keeping the Church of Scotland Presbyterian.
Richard Henderson was the pioneer merchant in North Carolina who hired Daniel Boone in the 1770's to cut a wilderness trail through the Cumberland Gap and open up Kentucky for settlement.
James Pinckney Henderson was Texas's first Governor in 1845.
Fletcher Henderson, who grew up in Georgia, was the big-band jazz leader of the 1920's.
Arthur Henderson from Glasgow was part of Labor's first Government in the 1920's and became Foreign Secretary in 1929. 

D.A. Henderson was the American physician who headed the international team that eradicated smallpox as a disease.

Select Hendersons Today
  • 47,000 in the UK (most numerous in Midlothian)
  • 63,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 53,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada) 



Select Surnames

Adams Cohen Harding McDonald Reynolds
Armstrong Corbett Harmer Meredith Richardson
Bacon Crawford Harris Mitchell Rooney
Baldwin Crowther Hayward Moore Sawyer
Bannister Doyle Henderson Murray  
Shelley
Bartlett Drake Hepburn Myers Sheraton
Bennett Driscoll Higgins Nash Spencer
Booth Ellis Hilton Newton Swan
Bowles Fitzgerald Holmes
Nightingale Sykes
Brett Fleming  Hopkins Oakes Tattersall      
Burden/Borden Foster Hudson Osborne Todd
Byrne
Fox Jackson Palin
Tucker
Carpenter Fraser Jefferson Palmer Vaughan
Carter Fry Jenner Pascoe Wade
Cassidy Fuller Lofthouse  Perry/Parry        
Wallace
Cavendish Gallagher        
Lynch  Pertwee Warren  
Chapman Goodwin Maloney Powell Washington
Chisholm Gould Marriott Pratt Webster
Clay Grant Maynard          
Probyn Witherspoon
Clinton Hancock McCarthy Quayle Wyatt 

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 500 surnames.

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