This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 2nd June 2003, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

(Part One)

The name Henderson has been particularly requested by a reader and for that reason it appears in the heading of this feature. It is only one of some 30 related surnames - all derived from the personal name Henry. In fact there are so many such related names that to avoid the following paragraphs taking on the semblance of an electoral register, discussion will be largely confined to those appearing in the local directory.

However spelt, the surnames based on Henry are all derived from a Germanic name Haimeric. It seems to have been known across the later Roman Empire in Europe because it was universally translated into Latin as Henricus. Forms of the name are now to be found in most European languages: Henri (French), Enrique (Spanish), and Jennrich (Slavonic). For present purposes it may be taken that the name is Nordic and was first introduced into the region alongside the channel coast, now known as Normandy. Under their leader Rollo (Hrolfr) raiders from Denmark established a settlement (c.9th century) which became known as "The Land of the Northmen" i.e. Normandy. The language there spoken was a type of French, evolved from Latin, and which was rapidly absorbed by the invaders. They did, however, retain many of their personal names (modified to suit French pronunciation) and among which was one formed by combining two Nordic units: Haim and Ric. The first meant "home" or "settlement" and can be seen in the number of English place names incorporating -ham. The second meant "powerful". This meaning was still known until the 17th century but henceforth became obsolete - although a hint of it still survives when certain foodstuffs are deemed "powerful" and designated "rich". Otherwise it now means "wealthy". The two units are readily discerned in the German Heinrich. It is suggested that the name may be interpreted as: he who provides a certain refuge.

The spelling and pronunciation varied considerably which partly explains the diversity of surnames generated. The qualification "partly" must be noted because, as will later be demonstrated, the name Henry was not at first quite popular among our Saxon ancestors, who preferred Harry. This dichotomy profoundly affected the development of related surnames.

While most records from around the 11th-12th centuries still used the Latin "Henricus" it is surmised that this was a formality used largely for Seals and in chronicles, charters and similar legal documents and that the bearers of the name were more likely to be addressed as "Henry" or "Harry.

The first, which was written "Henri" and pronounced "Ongree" was first introduced by the Normans and was highly favoured in their aristocratic circles whereas their Saxon subjects preferred Harry. Why this should have been so cannot easily be accounted for: possibly it was the nearest thing the English-speakers could get to the characteristic French nasal sounds involved. This sound is as difficult for us as is our aspirate "h" for the French. Note also how the Spanish have difficulty with the combination of "sp": hence "Espana" for "Spain."

The similarity between Harold and Harry often causes confusion but it must be emphasised that they are totally unrelated. In addition it should be noted that the well-known Scots fabric "Harris Tweed" takes its name from the Hebridean Island of Harris. This is a Norse word also, but here it is derived from haerri (higher) and describes that part of the island which is noticeably more elevated than the adjacent area of Lewis. In Gaelic it is rendered as Na h'Earra.

Thus, while Harry remained the preferred form in England until about the 17th century, in Scotland Henry was more apparent. This probably resulted from the regular dealings between the two kingdoms. A survey made in 1927 indicated that surnames such as Henry, Henryson and Henery were more concentrated North of the border than elsewhere. Even in the Orkneys both the personal name and dependent surnames were on record. There is also an Irish connection. A Norman family from Scotland called Fitzhenry emigrated and settled near Loch Corrib (Galway) where the name was rendered as MacEinri.

Otherwise the name was to be found elsewhere. The earliest record is to a Thomas Henery (Kent: 1275). The intrusive "- e-" is called epenthesis - the putting-in of an extra sound for easier pronunciation. Examples: "milluk" for milk and "fillum" for film. It is a characteristic of dialect - compare the old Music Hall song (c. 1890) "I'm Henery the Eighth I am." On the opposite side of the country was Richard Henry (Devon: 1293). Further still Henry Henrissonne (Chester: 1354). This could suggest a sequence over three generations. In Lancaster was John FitzHenrie (1346) and way up in Aberdeen James Henrison (1370) was complaining about English wreckers plundering his ship.

The name crossed the Atlantic and it is significant that over there many distinguished bearers of the name are of Scots descent - Patrick Henry (1736-1799) the patriot who uttered the words: Give me liberty or give me death.

Of the numerous bearers of the name in this country, mention might be made of Matthew Henry (Chester: 1662-1714). His extensive biblical commentaries were often incorporated in many a family bible - a prized possession of many a household of our grandparents' generation. The saying "better the day, better the deed", is attributed to him - but misquoted! More recently, the most familiar sight of the name, especially among our younger readers, is that of Thomas Henry (1879-1962) the first illustrator of the "William" books.

To be continued...

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 2nd June 2003.
Are you called HENDERSON or HARRISON?
(Part Two)

It has already been indicated that Henry, while for several centuries and particularly as a surname prevailed in Scotland, its counterpart Harry was the preferred choice of the English. Henry V (1413-1422) was "the warlike Harry" and Henry VIII (1509-1547) was "Burly King Harry" and "Bluff King Hal". Here it may be noted that Hal was a hypocorism ('pet- name') for Harry, and provided a personal name - especially in the States (Hal Roach, the film-maker). An intermediate form seems to have evolved between Henry and Harry. It was Herry. It is found engraved on the private seals of all the English monarchs until Henry VI (1461).

As an English surname it is ambiguous but it is found in Scotland: Herries, Herryson etc. Yet even some Scots authorities contend that Herries was first borne by a William de Heriz who went from Nottingham to Dumfries to take up service with David I (1124-1153). Lord Herries (1512-1587) was a champion of Mary, Queen of Scots. (No readily identifiable local entries in the directory) The name Harry remained a favourite name until the 17th century, then inexplicably went out of fashion, to be replaced by Henry. It did not disappear entirely though. Harry Truman was the American President (1945-1953) and recently the choice of the name for the son of Her Royal Highness, the late Princess Diana, has brought it into the "Top 50" listings (6th place: 2001). It occasionally provides a surname (see local directory). The earliest record is Richard Harry (Sheffield: 1400). Morgan Harry (1800-1846) was a noted preacher who inaugurated an early peace movement.

In classifying surnames, derivatives from the father (partonymic) predominate. Basically, in answer to the question: "Whose kid is that?", in the present case the answer would be "It is Harry's". This now yields "Harries" or "Harris". This usage follows upon the former way of showing possession (genitive). Before the word "of" became standard, ownership was shown by adding "-es" to who or whatever was possessed. There are a few relics still detectable as in Wednesday - i.e. the day of Woden or Wodenes daeg. In modern English only the "-s" is tagged on and the omission of "-e" marked by inserting the apostrophe. (A Greek word meaning "left out".) However in surnames only the "-s" is added without any apostrophe.

An alternative construction is simply the addition of "-son", hence Harrison. This is widespread with 600 entries alone in our local directory. Of Harris however the number of entries is markedly less. This reflects the distribution of the two names. Assuming a boundary running from Liverpool, via Leicester and upwards again to Hull, it is noted that North of the line Harrison predominates while it is Harris to the South (Harries in Wales). Here it might be opportune to explain how Henry modulated into Harry. Described very simply, the sound "-e-" in Henry changed to "-a-". Compare how the Latin "clericus" became "clerk" in English, though American usage differs. Then the "-n-" was absorbed by the following "-r-". Compare how the Latin verb "quadrare" meaning to cut and shape a block of stone becomes "to quarry" (in this case the -d- has been absorbed). Yet another linguistic process also came into operation. Instead of being absorbed, the letter "-n-" attracted another consonant - in this case, a letter "-d-". This has resulted in the name "Hendry" (with a few variations). The process is technically called "anaptyxis": examples include the Latin 'tener' (delicate) and 'numerus' which emerge as tender and number.

This mutation lies behind the distinctive Scandinavian for "Hendrick" and while it may have also evolved independently among English speakers, it is just as likely to have been imported - especially since the earliest records of forms of the name are concentrated towards the eastern side of our island. Thus Hendrie Ralleston (Edinburgh: 1519) and Hendrye Stanford (Norfolk: 1593), Hendyre Hendry (Stirling: 1562). Surprisingly, however, the earliest record is from Cornwall: John Hendre - 1359. Welsh influence by way of the prefix "Ap" (son of) has brought about names such as Appendrick, Pendry and Pendrick (of all the foregoing there are local examples). Older readers will recall the name Elias Hendren, the celebrated cricketer.

By adding the word 'son' to the name Hendry, the surname "Henderson" comes about. The earliest record concerns a Thomas Hendeson (York: 1379) - and a David Hendrysonne (Glasgow: 1586). An Irish form evolved spelled Hedron, and prevails in Armagh. Otherwise the name Henderson is distributed extensively in Ulster, having been imported during the time of the Ulster Plantation Scheme (1611). It certainly appears to be more Scots than English.

Of the 30 or so personalities in the standard biographies, the majority are of Scots or North of England ancestry. Mention may be made of Arthur Henderson (1863-1935), the distinguished Labour statesman, whose achievements in his work won him the Nobel Prize in 1934. He was, for a while, the Member of Parliament for Clay Cross.

To conclude: the names "Heriot" and "Hawkin" are tenuously related to the sources which have yielded the foregoing names, and will be the subject of forthcoming articles in the Peak Advertiser.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 16th June 2003.

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