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Heraldry Database: Whitaker


Surname:  Whitaker
Branch:  Whitaker
Origins:  British
More Info:  England

Background:  Whitaker appears to be a Saxon name. Some of the earliest recorded uses of the Whitaker name are in Warwickshire where at Wheatacre. When Duke William wasted the northern counties in 1070, many Saxon families were forced north. Whitakers were influencial in the county of Warwick where they were seated at Nether Witaker (Nether Whitacre). Traditionally they were descended from Wihtgar, a nephew of Cedric, King of the West Saxons. They also held the villages of Padiham and Simonstone, in Lancashire. They also branched to The Holme, Besley Hall and to Balkholme manor in Yorkshire, Mendham and Knoddis Hall in Suffolk, and Lyssom House in Hereford.

Motto:  Robur atque fides, Strength and faith.
Arms:  Sa. a fesse, betw. three mascles ar.
Crest:  A horse, passant, ar.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

The history of the most ancient Anglo-Saxon surname of Whitaker reaches far into the chronicles of the Saxon race. The Saxon Chronicle, compiled by monks in the 10th century, now resides in the British Museum.

History researchers have examined reproductions of such ancient manuscripts as the Domesday Book (1086) , the Ragman Rolls (1291-1296), the Curia Regis Rolls, The Pipe Rolls, the Hearth Rolls, parish registers, baptismals, tax records and other ancient documents. They found the first record of the name Whitaker in Warwickshire where they had been seated at Wheatacre from ancient times before and after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Different spellings were encountered in the research of your surname. Throughout the centuries your name, Whitaker, occurred in many records, manuscripts, and documents, but not always with your exact spelling. From time to time the surname was spelled Whittaker, Whittakers, Whitaker, Whitacre, and the variations in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. Scribes and church officials, often traveling great distances, even from other countries, frequently spelled the names phonetically. As a result the same person would be recorded differently on birth, baptismal, marriage and death certificates as well as other numerous records, recording life's events.

The Saxon race gave birth to many English surnames not the least of which was the surname Whitaker. The Saxons were invited into England by the ancient Britons of the 4th century. A fair skinned people their home was the Rhine valley, some as far north east as Denmark. They were led by two brothers, General/Commanders Hengist and Horsa. The Saxons settled in the county of Kent, on the south east coast of England. Gradually, they spread north and westward, and during the next four hundred years forced the ancient Britons back into Wales and Cornwall in the west, and Cumberland to the north. The Angles occupied the eastern coast, the south folk in Suffolk, north folk in Norfolk. Under Saxon rule England prospered under a series of high kings, the last of which was Harold.

In 1066, the Norman invasion from France occurred and their victory at the Battle of Hastings. In 1070, Duke William took an army of 40,000 north and wasted the northern counties, forcing many rebellious Norman (Northern?) Nobles and Saxons to flee over the border into Scotland. Meanwhile, the Saxons who remained in the south were not treated well under hostile Norman rule, and many also moved northward to the midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire away from the Norman oppression.

Never the less, this notable English family name, Whitaker, emerged as an influential family name in county of Warwick where they were seated at Nether Witaker (Nether Whitacre) traditionally they were descended from Wihtgar, a nephew of Cedric, King of the West Saxons. They also held the villages of Padiham and Simonstone, in Lancashire. In addition to Simonstone in Lancashire they also branched to The Holme, and to Balkholme manor in Yorkshire. They also branched to Mendham and Knoddis Hall in Suffolk, Lyssom House in Hereford, and branched north to Besley Hall in Yorkshire, There is a Whitaker House in Nether Whitaker. Their present family seats are Pylewell Park, Totterton Hall, Balkholme Manor, Everthorpe, Hesley Hall, and Simonstone. Notable amongst the family at this time was Rev. George Whitaker, Rural Dean of Dunwich.

The surname Whitaker flourished during the turbulent middle ages, contributing greatly to the cultural development of England. During the 15th, 16, 17, and 18th centuries England was ravaged by plagues, famine, and religious conflict. Protestantism, the newly found political fervor of Cromwellianism and democratic government, and the ruminants of the Roman Church rejected all non believers, each jealously claiming adherents to their own cause. The changing rule caused burnings, hangings, and banishments of all sects and creeds, first one then another. Many families were freely "encouraged" to migrate to Ireland, or to the "colonies." Some were rewarded with grants of lands, others were banished.

Some families were forced to migrate to Ireland were they became known as the "Adventurers for land in Ireland". Protestant settlers "undertook" to keep their faith, being granted lands previously owned by the Catholic Irish. In Ireland the family settled in counties Meath and Louth from about the 14th century.

The New World offered better opportunities and some migrated voluntarily, some were banished mostly for religious reasons. Some left Ireland disillusioned with promises unfulfilled, but many left directly from England, their home territories. Some also moved to the European Continent.

Members of the family name Whitaker sailed aboard the huge armada of three masted sailing ships known as the "White Sails" which plied the stormy Atlantic. These overcrowded ships such as the Hector, the Dove and the Rambler, were pestilence ridden, sometimes 30% to 40% of the passenger list never reaching their destination.

Amongst the first settlers in North America, which could be considered a kinsman of the surname Whitaker, or a variable spelling of that family name were the following: Ann WHITACRE settled in Virginia in 1636; followed by John, Anne, and Robert WHITACRE in 1700; George WHITAKER settled in Virginia in 1638; George WHITTAKER settled in Virginia in 1635, David WHITAKER landed in America in 1766; George, Henry, James, John, Josiah, Samuel and William WHITTAKER all settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1817 and 1864; Elizabeth WHITAKERS settled in Virginia in 1623.

From the port of entry many settlers made their way west, joining the wagon trains to the prairies to the west coast. During the American War of Independence, many loyalists made their way north to Canada about 1790, and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

Contemporary notables of the surname Whitaker include many distinguished contributors, Benjamin John WHITAKER Author; Charles WHITAKER, Newcastle Department of Health; Sir James WHITAKER, Meredeth WHITTAKER; John WHITTAKER, Vice Chancellor, Sheffield University.

Name Variations:  Whitaker, Whittaker, Whitteker, Whitacre, Whitacar, Whitacher, Wheatacre, Whitiker, Whiteker, Whiteaker, Whitcher, Whitakert, Withacre, Wythacre, Witacre, Witacur, Wyteacre, Wetaker, Witteacres, Whittacre, Witaker, Wittaker, Whiteacre, Weiteaker, Waiteaker, Whittiker.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
English Surnames; C.M. Matthews - 1966.
A Dictionary of English Surnames; P.H. Reaney - 1958.


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