The English Henshaws and Henshalls

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The surname Henshaw is found throughout England (and some in Scotland). Henshaw is noted in the Domesday book as "Hofinchel". Other spellings found in England are "Henshawe", "Henshall", and "Hanshaw".

There are several "Henshaw" place names in England:

The Family of Thomas Henshawe of Lancashire

Sometime in the late 1500s or early 1600s, just as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I was ending, Thomas Henshawe of Lancaster was born. Based upon other church records, it is believed that Thomas was the son of William Henshawe and Margerie Gyll of Lancashire. This family was variously known as either Henshawe or Henshall (both spellings exist in the same church records).

Thomas had seven known children. One of his sons, William, married Katherine Houghton in 1630. It is from this line that most (or all) Henshaws in America descend.

Another son of Thomas, John, "went into Ireland and died there, leaving one son".4 It is from this line that, it is believed, most (or all) Hinshaws in America descend.

William Wade Hinshaw, in various published pedigrees, claimed that all American Hinshaws and Henshaws descended from this Thomas Henshawe. His assertion assumes that, of all the Henshaws in England, only this one individual's descendents ever emigrated to America. This may not necessarily be true - there may be Henshaws in America descended from other English Henshaws. However, it is likely that the vast majority of us did descend from this common ancestor.

Thomas must have been somewhat wealthy and held high social status, since his son William married into the family of Evan Houghton, a family with considerable wealth and noble blood. From this marriage, it is possible to reliably trace the lineage back to King Edward III, and from there of course to many preceeding noble and royal generations.

Simplified, the lineage is as follows:

It is of course possible to extend this lineage considerably since there are many published pedigrees of the English nobility. We will not attempt to cover in further detail the entire lineage of the royal houses of England. There are many excellent books on the subject at most libraries.

The Story of Joshua and Daniel

Thomas Henshawe of Lancaster had a son William Henshawe, who married Katherine Houghton in 1630 and had sons Joshua (born c1643) and Daniel (born c1644). William had a large estate, which included Wavertree Hall (or Wartre Hall).

William was killed at the storming of Liverpool in 1644 (during the English Civil Wars) while fighting against King Charles I. William's wife, Katherine Houghton, died in 1651. About 1652, the orphans Joshua and Daniel were "fraudulently abducted" and sent to New England. They came to Dorchester, Mass., where they resided during their minority. According to family tradition, they were in the care of the Rev. Richard Mather, who came from Lancashire, England, and was responsible for their care, and for the money sent with them for their support and education, and for setting them up in business.

Peter Ambrose, the boys steward, is suspected of having been responsible for sending the boys out of England for the purpose of getting possession of their property, for before they were sent away they had been in his care for several years, and after their departure he retained possession and died in the occupation of the estate. Peter Ambrose suposedly claimed that Joshua and Daniel had been sent off to school in London, where they both died of the plague. However, when Peter Ambrose died about 1653, he left the following provision in his will:

... Also my will and mind is and I hereby give and bequeath to Joshua and Daniel Henshawe, late sons of William Henshawe, late of Toxteth aforesaid deceased, who are now in New England, so much money as shall make up what already hath "ben" by me laid forth for them and expended for them for their voyage to New England and otherwise, the sum of thirty pounds, to be paid them at such time as they shall have attained full age and shall give a sufficient discharge for the whole thirty pounds. ...

In 1688, Joshua made his will and in the early part of the next year he returned to England for the purpose of recovering the large property left by his parents. When Joshua arrived in England he found Peter Ambrose's son, Joshua Ambrose, in possession of, and claiming rights to, the estates, as heir to his father Peter Ambrose. Joshua filed a bill in Chancery Court against Joshua Ambrose, but not being then prepared to prove his paternity, he returned to Dorchester and procured the necessary evidence.

Meanwhile, Joshua Ambrose, as defendant, filed an answer to the Chancery bill. At a subsequent term of the court, in 1690, the plaintiff (Joshua Henshaw) not appearing, the bill was dismissed. In 1692, after Joshua Henshaw's return to England, his case against Ambrose was restored to the court's docket and kept there for nearly thirty years!

In 1719, when it became certain that a decision was about to be rendered in favor of Joshua Henshaw, Ambrose invited Joshua to dinner, with a pretence of a desire to compromise. Soon after the dinner, Joshua Henshaw was seized with an illness, from which he died in a few hours. The Chancery suit was then dropped from the docket for lack of a plaintiff!

Thus the estate of William Henshaw, heir to Thomas Henshaw, was forever lost to the family.

Sir Thomas Henshawe

Was Thomas Henshawe of Lancaster (mentioned above), father of William and grandfather of Joshua & Daniel, knighted? Should he properly be called "Sir Thomas"?

William Wade Hinshaw, in various published pedigrees, claimed that all American Hinshaws and Henshaws descended from "Sir Thomas Henshaw" of England.

This "Sir Thomas Henshaw" is also mentioned in the book "The Hinshaw and Henshaw Families" and has been handed-down in family folkelore for years.

Was Thomas ever really "Sir Thomas Henshaw"?

To find out, several years ago I commissioned a research study at the College of Arms in London (sometimes mistakenly called the "Heralds College"). The College of Arms is the one and only official organization authorized by the Queen to grant and record grants of the right to bear Arms. They did find several Henshaws with Coats of Arms, including several Thomas's. One of these Henshaws might be our ancestor, but no direct proof has yet been found. The research report from the College of Arms is reproduced here in its entirety.

Note that nowhere in this report is the word "Sir" mentioned. We do not know if any of the Henshaws mentioned were actually knighted, so we can't say for sure that there actually was a "Sir Thomas Henshaw". Nor do we know for sure if any of the Henshaws mentioned are our direct ancestors.

One of the Henshaws who would likely have been knighted was Thomas Henshaw, Envoy Extraordinary to the King of Denmark, mentioned in Visitations NXII-74. But he was not our ancestor as he is known to have died with no male heirs.

Which of these English Henshaws moved to Ireland?

From the College of Arms report, there appear to be two findings that may possibly be the link to our Irish Hinshaws:

Another published pedigree is that of Joshua Henshaw of Boston who recorded his pedigree in 17014. The College of Arms researchers seem to have missed this pedigree for some reason, even though it is supposedly recorded at the College of Arms!

In any case, Joshua's pedigree shows his lineage back to a Thomas Henshaw of Lancaster, who married a daughter of the Kendrick family of Prescot, Lancaster. The pedigree shows one of Thomas' sons was William Henshaw who married Katherine Houghton. From this marriage, using church record extracts18, we can then fill-in this family more completely.

Joshua's pedigree shows a son of Thomas, John Henshaw, "who went into Ireland and died there, leaving one son deceased."4 So apparently by 1701 (when Joshua's pedigree was prepared), John's unnamed only son had died. But there is no mention of whether or not John's son had children before he died. So it is possible that this is our lineage. In fact, this is the lineage that William Wade Hinshaw claimed to be the direct line of the Irish Hinshaws back to England.

Henshaw Hall

There once was a family homestead/manor called "Henshaw Hall" in the township of Siddington, county Cheshire. A description of Henshaw Hall of Siddington can be found in the 1687 recorded pedigree "Thornycroft of Thornycroft and Henshaw of Henshaw" by George King, R.D., ordered to be entered by Henry, Duke of Norfolk, Nov 28, 1687.31 It describes it as follows (c1687):

"Henshaw Hall is a stone building which has been modernised. It was surrounded by a square moat, some portions of which are still visible. Over the entrance doorway is a large stone slab bearing the following inscription, in capitals:

Henshaw Hall passed into the hands of the Thornycroft family on October 21, 1712 when Eleanor Henshaw of Henshaw married John Thornycroft of Thornycroft. Eleanor was the daughter and sole heir of John Henshaw of Henshaw, descendent of Thomas Henshaw of Henshaw, described in the College of Arms report under "Visitations C38-44b (Chesshire 1663)".

Henshaw Hall still exists today, located on Henshaw Lane, just off the small road connecting Siddington with Macclesfield.

The Henshaw Family Coat of Arms

We want to correct a common misunderstanding that many people (Americans at least) have regarding armorial bearings: There is no such thing as a "family coat of arms"!

As you'll notice in the College of Arms report, the right to bear Arms is granted to a single individual, not to an entire family. This right is hereditary, and so direct-line descendents of the original grantee will inherit the right to bear these Arms, although subsequent generations commonly used slight individual modifications to the inherited Arms.

So if we can ever firmly establish which of these English Henshaws is our direct-line ancestor then we (those of us who are directly descended exclusively in the male line) would have the right to use those Arms. Otherwise, "brothers", "cousins", "in-laws" (female-line connections) and the like may not legally bear these Arms.

For further information, check your local library's catalog under "heraldry". Many good books have been written on the subject. There's even a Usenet newsgroup devoted to heraldry: rec.heraldry (see the rec.heraldry FAQ). You may also want to check the College of Arms web site (especially their FAQ). See also: Society of Genealogists.

However, just for entertainment value, if you are curious, click here for an image of the arms of Thomas Henshaw of London: Sample Coat of Arms

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