A note on Haigneys

This Irish surname is derived from the Gaelic Ó h-Éignigh, and has been anglicized from here to kingdom come and back. Therefore, in addition to “Haigneys”, you can find Heagneys, Higneys, Hagneys, Heighneys, Hegneys, Haighneys and Heigneys, for starters. And that’s before the census takers in the New York counties of Albany, Rensselaer and Kings started in on it. (My great-great grandfather Martin has been listed as “Haggemy” and “Halgely.”)

The Irish Times has a pretty nifty surname search chart about the Irish occurrences of this name, noting that the Haigney spelling variant is extremely rare.

Also, if you’re truly addicted to name variations, check out this chart from the Irish Family History Foundation. Fun! Laughs! Census mayhem!

My Haigney line came to America circa 1850 with Martin, my great-great-grandfather. When Martin enlisted in the U.S. Army to work in the arsenal in Watervliet, New York, he told the registrar he had been born in Tipperary. Exactly where, I am still not sure, but I’m working on it. Circumstantial evidence [i.e., migration patterns detected in many Irish families who ended up in the Troy/Watervliet area] may point to North Tipperary.

Martin lived until 1911, remaining in upstate New York most of his life. In about 1900, two of his sons, including my great-grandfather, Joseph, started spelling their name consistently as “Haigney” (thank goodness), and  relocated to Brooklyn. That is where most of these Haigneys  stayed until World War II, after which a bunch of us started migrating to the suburbs of New Jersey and Long Island, although a core group is still in Brooklyn.

By now I’m used to having people mispronounce and misspell my surname in creative ways, and also to being asked if I’m sure it’s really Irish. (In Ireland, even!) It’s all part of what makes family history research a lot more entertaining than you’d think.

If you are a Haigney family researcher (or Higney/Heigney/oh, you get the picture) and want to swap war stories, feel free to contact me at haigney.search@gmail.com. My other Irish surnames of interest include Kelleher, Kearney (or Carney) and McKenna in Brooklyn; Connors, Mahon/McMahon and Roche in the Troy/Watervliet area.


15 Comments on “A note on Haigneys”

  1. Hello, my Grandmother’s Parents Joseph and Robina Higney came to New York from Glasgow, Scotland around 1901. They had 3 children, Charles, Grace and Robina my Grandmother. Joseph from what I understand found work as a Bricklayer and helped to build the Metropolitan Opera building in NYC among others. His wife Robina was a Nurse. My grandmother Robina was a textile designer and worked for the Bloomburg Textile Factory on 5th Ave, where she met my Grandfather William Ellsworth Johnes, who sold textiles. He was from a prominent family, the Johnes family who originally came from Wales, who’s great great great Grandfather Timothy Johnes was minister to George Washingon, and in Wales they were a Noble family. They had one child, my father William Johnes. I’m Christine Robina Johnes. Charles Higney my great uncle moved to New Hampshire and had 3 daughters, Lorna, Rachel and Beth who still live there from what I understand, as of this posting. Grace Higney my great Aunt married Dennis Carslile, who was in the oil business and first drilled for oil in Kuwait. He passed away in 2010. She had two sons, Alan and Peter Carslile. Peter Carslile lived on Staten Island and passed away in 2002. Alan has one son, Scott Carlile, an Actor and Producer.

  2. nick says:

    Hi all – it s HAY – G – KNEE – Nick Haigney in Kent in the UK (brother of Di) – my cousin Carl Haigney has done a fair bit of research into the UK Haigney family tree in the past if you want to join up. There are Haigneys in UK, Ireland, Australia and NZ too.

  3. Sharon Stepp says:

    My son Ryan Nicholas Haigney (11 years old) has a school project to do about the origin of his Haigney name. Unfortunately most anyone who could answer questions related to the inquiry have passed. What I do know is that his dad James Haigney was born in Brooklyn, NY. 1968. His father Gerald Haigney was born in Brooklyn in 1945 and died in April or May 1998. Gerald had 2 sisters named Ginger and Geraldine. Their parents were named Francis (Frank) and Muriel Haigney. Francis (Frank) owned a bar on or around 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. They lived in the vicinity as well. Frank had 2 brothers named Raymond (who relocated to ? Sterling, Colorado, and Peter who was a dentist. If anyone can assist me in by providing some family history information I would greatly appreciate it.

    We have no family contacts in New York, and aside from James (Jim) Haigney, there is no one living that can answer any family history questions for us.

    I really want to be able to give my kids some type of information about their Irish family heritage.

    Thanks again.

    Sharon Stepp smariahaigney@gmail.com

  4. Di Haigney says:

    No, no, no! It’s pronounced ‘HAY-g-knee’ 🙂 Just ask any of us here in the Midlands, UK!

  5. Mary-Alice says:

    Hi, Liz!

    My guess was wrong: the Cohoes City Clerk, at 518-233-2141, kindly informed me that most records prior to 1882 were destroyed in a fire. “So,” she said sadly, “you probably will not be able to find them.”

    Some thoughts I have:

    Cohoes was incorporated as a village in 1848, as part of the Town of Watervliet (and became a city in 1869.) That fact might help in your research. Also, we all know that people often registered civilly for their marriages in one county, but actually had the ceremony or church service elsewhere. Maybe your ancestors registered in Rensselaer County.

    And, have you visited the Troy Irish Genealogy Society at rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nytigs? They seem to be very familiar with the local church records, and do look-ups as “acts of kindness;” perhaps you can find a church marriage record?

    Well, I could write a lot more about this. It’s so interesting! But I don’t want to take up a lot of space! I do just have to add this: transportation: if we imagine ourselves in Cohoes in 1857, where would we go to register? Do we have a horse, or do we have to walk? Watervliet is a long walk, but so is Troy. Where are the bridges over the Hudson to get to Troy? If Martin is working at the Arsenal, does he “stop in” at the Town Office to register?

    I’m stopping here!

    M.A. 🙂

    • Hey M.A.,

      Thanks for taking the time to call the city clerk. I had a feeling there wouldn’t be much in the way of vitals before the 1880s, good to get the confirmation. I’m pretty sure it would have to be a church record. From what I can see the R.C. Church in Cohoes at this time would have been St. Bernard’s — were there others?
      Yes, I’m a big fan of TIGS. I’m going to put a query out on their list and see what folks say.

      • Mary-Alice says:


        I’m not aware of any other RC Churches in Cohoes at that time besides St. Bernard’s, but TIGS would probably know for certain.

        I’ll follow along on TIGS and your blog, of course, to see what develops!

        M.A. 🙂

  6. Mary-Alice says:

    Hi Liz!

    I’ve just found your blog, and am enjoying catching up on all of your posts. So, how DO you pronounce your last name? Or did I miss that in another post?

    I live in Cohoes, in Albany County. Your story about Martin at the Watervliet Arsenal is interesting. I pass by it often but have yet to go in – now it is on my soon-to-do list!

    Thank you for sharing – and your writing style is a joy to read. You are inspiring me to finally get going on a blog of my own. Fingers crossed!

    Mary-Alice 🙂

    • It’s HEGG-knee, short e, hard g. (Not Hoggnee, Hayney or Heckney, or any of a million other possibilities.)

      Thanks for your kind words, Mary-Alice — and how interesting that you’re from Cohoes! I just found out in my brand-new set of Troy newspaper clippings that my gg-grandparents supposedly were married there in 1857. Anytime you want to blog about how to find old marriage records up there, I will be your most enthusiastic commenter. Just sayin’.

      • Mary-Alice says:

        Oh, glad I asked – I’ve been saying “HAY-knee” as I read. Not no more, though!

        I just did a quick search for Cohoes Marriage Records, which you have probably done already, and ooo-eee, my head is spinning. Seems Cohoes City Hall only has Marriage Records back to 1882. The Albany County sites I visited are not easy to navigate. I will give the Cohoes City Clerk a call tomorrow, and see what she can tell me. My guess is they are in the NYS Library, in Albany.

        Then, I will either work on getting my blog ready, and post the info there sometime in the next decade, or comment again here – just kidding! I’ll let you know asap.

  7. dionneford says:

    Hi Liz.
    Great blog! It was nice meeting you tonight at the blogging meeting. I’m a big fan of geneabloggers too, but I haven’t yet figured out how to put their badge on my site:( Looking forward to following your research.
    Dionne Ford

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