Henderson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Henderson Meaning
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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Henderson Ancestry

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
1620’s, Magnus
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
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
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
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
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

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

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.

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
the Hexham racecourse on the Tyne in 1890 and made it a premier place

Further south in Yorkshire, a Henderson family had been
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

“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
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.

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
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, became 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

The Hendersons of Glencoe.  Our ancestors in Glencoe are as old as any clan in the Highlands.
Through them we claim descent from Eanruig Mor Mac Righ Neachtan – Big
Henry, son of King Noctan, the king of the Picts in 710 – who settled
the southern shore of Loch Leven.   Although it would be
difficult to pinpoint when the MacEanruig chiefs first held the land
embracing Glencoe, they held the chiefship there for three centuries
before King Robert the Bruce granted lordship of Glencoe to Angus of
the Isles for his support at Bannockburn in 1314.

The last Henderson chief at Glencoe was Dugald MacEanruig.  The
chiefship passed as a result of his daughter’s marriage into clan
Donald.  Ian, her son and progenitor to the MacIans, established
the MacEanruigs as the hereditary pipers for the MacDonalds of
Glencoe.  At the time of the massacre, our Gaelic-speaking
ancestors were the bodyguards to the chief of Glencoe.

Magnus Henderson of the Shetlands.  Magnus Henryson or Henderson of Buness, styled eldest son
of his father:
in a sasine dated January 30, 1627
had a charter to him and Katherine Neven, his spouse, of 8 merks land
in Burrafirth from David, son to John Swannieson, petitioner of
Windhouse, September 1, 1633
and of 23 merks land in Cunningsetter from Peter Nisbetson, son to
James Nisbetson, December 26, 1627
and from Alexander Douglas of Spymie, commissioner for the Earldom, he
had a charter of his 69 merks, 2 ures land in Uist, 51 in Yell, and 17
in Fetlar, August 10, 1664.

He married Kathleen Neven and had issue:
– Ninian, his heir
– William of Gloup
– John of Pettister
– Gilbert of Midgarth
– and Janet who married William Craigie, merchant of Lerwick.

He is also said to have had issue:
– Ursula, who married John Craigie
– Barbara, who married Magnus Norie
– and Nans and Sara.

The Longcase Clock by Thomas Henderson.  The clock is made from four differnt types of wood, oak, walnut, ebony,
and sycamore.  Thomas Henderson made this clock.  He was born
in Scarborough in 1712.  His father Robert was also a
clockmaker.  Thomas moved to Hull to set up his own clock making
business in Silver Street.  We don’t know when the business was
established.  It closed down in 1767 when William Pridgin took
over the workshop in Silver Street. Thomas returned to Scarborough.

John Henderson of Fife and Virginia.  In 1902 Dr. Joseph Lyon Miller published a small book, Ancestry and Descendants of Lieut. John
.  He reproduced in this book a handwritten
inscription from an old book in his possession dated 1707.

“William Henderson
born Apr 30, 1676
died Aug 1, 1737, aged 61
Margaret Henderson
born March 1, 1760
died December 15, 1739, aged 59
William Henderson gent and Margaret Bruce married Feb 7, 1705
John son, born Feb 9, 1706
James son, born Jan 17, 1708
Bruce son, born May 10, 1710, died Sept 1719
Samuel son, born Nov 28, 1713

John Henderson, died May 1 1766, aged 60
Samuel Henderson, died Jan 19, 1782

This record set down from the memory of James Henderson,
now aged 75.”

The Captain William Henderson who married Margaret Bruce
was apparently the son of Sir William Henderson, the second baronet of

Alexander Henderson in Virginia.  Alexander Henderson, an enterprising young man from the land of the
Scots, was enticed by the stories of the opportunities of land and
wealth in the Americas and sought to make his way in the wilds of
Virginia. 1737 was the year of his epic voyage as well as the beginning
of his family’s legacy in America.

He became a wealthy merchant, member of the House of
Burgesses, and member of the Compact Committee.  He was a friend,
neighbor, and political supporter of George Washington.  Both were
members and vestrymen of the Pohick church in Fairfax, Virginia, where
they occupied adjacent pews.  George Washington recorded in his
diary his attendance at the marriage of his friend Alexander Henderson
and Miss Sarah (Sally) Moore.  The friends were to meet on
numerous other social occasions.

Ben Henderson and the Runaway Slaves.  At dawn one morning in the mid-1840’s, Ben Henderson of Jacksonville
began preparing to deliver some cradles to Springfield.
Henderson, a black man, was a former slave who paid his master $250 for
his freedom before settling in Jacksonville.  But before Henderson
had loaded his wagon, two runaway slaves – a man and a woman – came to
his home and asked for help on their journey to freedom.  A bounty
of $1,000 had been offered for the man.

Henderson put some hay in the bottom of his wagon and had the couple
lie in it.  He spread a wagon cover over them, then put some more
hay and his cradles on top.  During the day Henderson drove around
the Springfield city square, shopping and talking to people before
taking the slaves to the home of a Springfield area man who could help
them continue their journey to freedom.

No one ever suspected Henderson was risking his own freedom by breaking
federal and state laws against harboring or assisting runaway
slaves.  His role was documented by Jacksonville author John
Wolcott Carter in The Underground
, a story of abolitionist activity in the area.

The Henderson Plantation in Louisiana.  The year is 1853 and slavery is alive and well on the Hendersons’
cotton plantation in Louisiana.  Mr. Henderson rules his
plantation like a lord, keeping a close watch over more than one
hundred slaves.   Mrs. Henderson oversees the daily
operations of the home and looks after the children.

Daddy Major and his family are among the most prominent
slaves on the plantation.  Daddy major is the chief driver, one of
the highest positions a plantation slave can hold, and his wife Rosena
is the Hendersons’ cook.

Experience life on a southern plantation – impressively
recreated through detailed photographs, illustrations, and diagrams –
and follow the Hendersons and the Majors through a typical day in their
closely connected yet strikingly contrasted lives.


Select Henderson Names

Robert Henryson was a fifteenth century Scottish poet of fables.
, 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 Henderson Numbers Today

  • 47,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Midlothian)
  • 76,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 53,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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