Henderson Surname Genealogy
or in Gaelic Earnruig.
Son of Henry became Henryson. The Scots found Henryson a bit of a
mouthful. So Henderson emerged; and has remained.
- Henderson Clan.
Henderson clan website.
- Henderson Scottish Branches.
Genealogy section/minibios – Henderson family.
- Henderson DNA Project
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.
Perhaps their old traditions have been best
preserved in their remotest outpost, the Shetland Isles. In the
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.
Hendersons had held sway at Glencoe in the Highlands from
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
Hendersons in Fifeshire descended from a family of Henrysons in
Dumfriesshire. They date in Fifeshire from 1511 when they were
there and commenced building Fordell castle. Alexander Henderson
from this family was one of the drafters of the National Covenant in
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
Perth also produced Hamish Henderson (or Seamus MacEanruig) who did
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
Ireland. The Borders were
economically ravaged during the 17th century. A large
Hendersons took up the chance for a new life and new lands in
Ulster. They settled first in Donegal and then in Tyrone and
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
as convicts to Australia.
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
the Hexham racecourse on the Tyne in 1890 and made it a premier place
Further south in Yorkshire, a Henderson family had been
clockmakers at the seaside town of Scarborough since the
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
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
who moved to Texas and became the first Governor of that state.
James Henderson from North Carolina was granted land in Tennessee in
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
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
Georgia, and also in Mississippi and Louisiana:
- John Henderson had left his native Scotland in 1770 and was an
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
young and he died a few years later. The ghost of their owners
are still said to haunt Destrehan manor.
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
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
More Hendersons came from the plantations
after emancipation. Cornelius Henderson, whose family had
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
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:
Robert Henryson was a fifteenth century Scottish poet of fables.
Henderson, a Presbyterian minister, drafted the National
Covenant in 1636 and was largely responsible for keeping the Church of
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
- 76,000 in America (most numerous
- 53,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
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