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The Hepburn name is registered

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Guild of One Name Studies (GOONS)

Registration No. 4785

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Hepburns of Donegal

 Hepburn Family Montage

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Origin of the name Hepburn HEBBORN Family History HEPBURN of Hailes HEPBURN of WAUGHTON The HEPBURNS of Scotland

Hepburns of Donegal: a background...

The earliest Hepburn I have found from my original family's locality is an Alexander Hepburn, in 1680 a ruling elder of the Presbyterian chapel in Raigh (now Raymoghy) not far from Raphoe,

Co. Donegal .


In 1766, four Hepburns (William, Samuel, Alexander and John) are found on the Protestant Householders list for my family's ancestral parish of Donaghmore (where Castlefinn is located). These are most likely very early Hepburns of my family's line.


The earliest confirmed Hepburn that I can link directly to my family line is William Hepburn, a mason living on McBride Street in Raphoe, Donegal in the early 1800s about six miles from the town of Castlefinn. Hepburns still reside on McBride Street today.


William's son, Andrew Hepburn, also a mason, built a cottage in the townsland of Sessiagh Allison in Castlefinn. The cottage was re-built in 1910 by his grandsons, most of whom were

also masons. This cottage remains today occupied by relatives of the original Hepburn family.



There was a great amount of movement of Hepburns throughout the years. Many local families would travel to the west coast of Scotland for work, sometimes returning, sometimes settling there. Hepburns also immigrated to North America in the early-to-mid 1800s settling in Manhattan, New York and Donegal County, Pennsylvania. My direct ancestors immigrated to Toronto, Canada in the early 1900s.



It appears that the earliest Hepburns in Donegal were Presbyterians but in time most of

following generations became members of the Church of Ireland. A few individuals became members of the Roman Catholic Church. These Roman Catholic Hepburn families tended not

to stay in Northern Ireland and relocated to Scotland, the United States or New Zealand. My own ancestors became Salvationists when they were living in Belfast in the early 1900s.

Other Hepburns in Ireland

Scattered across Northern Ireland, there have been 'pockets' of Hepburn families all sharing similar family names, notably in the Magherafelt district Co. Londonderry; Newtownards district Co. Down; Strabane and Cookstown districts, Co. Tyrone; and Lurgan district Co. Armagh. All these families appear to have settled in their areas at a similar time in the early 1800s. The connection between them remains unclear.


From early 1700s most Irish Hepburns were found in Northern Ireland/ Ulster Province. The exceptions to this were Hepburns living in Dublin (mostly tradesmen and merchants) who had direct connections with England and Scotland. There were also a number of Irish-born Hepburns who were soldiers in the military. Occasionally records relating to these soldiers are found in districts where these Hepburn families were stationed in local barracks at the time e.g. Cork, Enniskillen, Wexford and Kildare.


Researching Irish Records

For those who attempt to research ancestors in Ireland will be acutely aware of how time-consuming family research can be. The bulk of the nation's census records were lost during the 1921-22 Irish Civil War, and the implementation of Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) was patchy and without much detail. Many Hepburns simple weren't registered with the State. And parochial records (old parish records) are notoriously difficult to gain access to.


After 1922, the island was split into two separate countries,The Republic of Ireland (or "Erie") & Northern Ireland, UK, and divided down political, administrative and often religious lines making the accessibility of records quite complicated for the novice researcher (and even for the experienced ones!). For example, although most of my own ancestors were natives of the Castlefinn area in east Donegal, they occasionally would travel as litte as five miles eastward into County Tyrone for work, or to get married etc. Little did they know that years later their individual vital records would be held across two counties as well as two countries!


Not surprisingly, a number of businesses have exploited the difficulties confronting the average family researcher and now offer research services and online links to databases at extraordinary expense. The information has been transcribed off of original records and I have been forced to used them on occasion and have been very disappointed in the accuracy of the information they have sold me. I much prefer to find the originals myself, but trips to Ireland can become expensive too!


Lastly, even the casual Hepburn researcher will agree that we were cursed with a name that had an unusually high numbers of variants. I have verified the name "Hepburn" spelled 27 different ways so far! (see complete list elsewhere)