Recorded in the spellings of O'Henaghan, O'Hennegan, O'Henehan, and without the prefix as in Heanaghan, Henehan, Henihan, Hennigan, Henaghan, Henaughan, Henekan, Heanan and Heenan, this is an ancient Irish surname. It was thought to be a nickname or metonymic, and to supposedly owe its derivation from the early Gaelic word "ean" meaning a bird, and this may be so. The derivation is from the ancient name O'hEeanchain, which loosely translates as "The descendant of the son of the Bird". Who the "Bird" was and how he became so named, is not known, but it was normal for Gaelic surnames to descend from the original chief of the clan. It may be that he was a hunter or hawker, perhaps one who trained birds of prey to hunt. What is certain is that the surname is very old, probably at least 13th century (see below). Early examples of the surname recordings include Thomas O'Henegan in Pettys "Survey of Ireland" for County Mayo in 1659, and Father Patrick Henecan, the parish priest of Ballysodare, and Dean of Achonry in 1743. The first known recording is believed to be that of Tayg O'Henehan, who was brought before the courts of County Kerry in the year 1295. His fate is not known.
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