Whitaker Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This Anglo-Saxon last name has three different origin theories and meanings. First, and primarily, it is a topographic name denoting a person who lived on or near “the white acre” or a locational or habitational name denoting a person who came from a town or parish so named after this physical/geographic feature. There are numerous places throughout the British Isles so named (ex. Over and Nether Whitacre are parish in county Warwick, England, Whiteacre in Kent, High Whitaker in Lancashire, and Wheatacre in Norfolk). It derives from the Old English words hwit (white) or hwte (wheat) and æcer (cultivated land), and hence literally translates to a white field or wheat field. A second, interesting, theory is proffered by William Arthur in his 1857 book An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names: he states it refers to the north part of a graveyard that was dedicated to poor people, from the word wite, meaning a penalty and an acre, a place for the burial of criminals. He also cites another author who states it means “the north—east part of a flat or shoal—the middle ground”. Third, a historian named Ferguson believes this name derives from Wihtgar, a name that was borne by a nephew of Cerdic, King of the West Saxons, son of Cynric, who reigned from 519 to 534 AD.
Edward MacLysaght’s 1964 book Supplement to Irish Families states the following in regard to this surname: “This is the most usual modern form, but there are several variant spellings in use, including Whiteacre, which reveals the derivation of the name. It appears in the Patent Rolls as de Whiteacre at Drogheda in 1403 and at Trim in 1408; Robert Whytacre was bailiff of Drogheda in 1305 (he is also called Quitaker in the Justiciary Rolls) and there are several other mediaeval references to men of the name in or near Meath. Griffith's Valuation and other modern sources find the name still in the midland counties, but from the seventeenth century it becomes increasingly well known in Ulster”.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Whittaker, Whitacre, Whittiker, Whitacker, Whiteaker, Whitakker, Whitakier, Whitakerr, Whitaaker, Whitecar, Wetaker, Wyteacre, Whitticker, Whittiker, Whitteker, Whittacker, Whitteaker, and Whiteker, and about 95 others.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Whitaker ranks 558th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following four states: Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana. The surname Whitaker frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (802nd), Scotland (1,981st), Wales (1,201st), Ireland (4,790th) and Northern Ireland (2,536th). In England, it ranks highest in county Yorkshire. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Fife. In Wales, it ranks highest in Montgomeryshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Limerick. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Down. The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (4,283rd), New Zealand (865th), Australia (1,713th), and South Africa (2,523rd). The 1890 book Homes of Family Names by H.B. Guppy, states the following in regard to this surname: “The Whittakers or Whitakers are numerous in Lancashire. From the 14th to the 16th century a gentle family of this name lived at High Whitaker or Whitacre in the vills of Simonstone and Padiham, in the parish of Whalley: the Whitakers of Holme and those of Henthorn branched off in the 15th century and those of Healy about 1620. The name was frequent in the parish of Rochdale in the 16th century. During last century the Whittakers were well - to - do Manchester townsmen. The name is just as frequent in the West Riding and less so in Cheshire”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
Richard de Wetacre was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk, England in 1177 AD. Simon de Withacre was documented in the Testa de Neville, sive Liber Feodorum in county Leicester in the thirteenth century AD. The Hundred Rolls of 1273 AD, a census of Wales and England, known in Latin as Rotuli Hundredorum lists two bearers of this surname: Alan Witacur and Richard de Whitacre, from Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, respectively. Jordan de Whitacre was documented in the Placita de Quo Warranto in county Northampton ROUND 1291 AD. The Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379 AD lists three bearers of this last name: Henricus Wyteacre, Willelmus de Wetaker, and Rogerus Whitteacres. An early marriage involving this surname was John Whitaker to Mary Storey at St. Dionis Backchurch in 1618 AD.
Whitaker Family Tree & Whitaker Genealogy
Whitaker of Balkholme Manor and Everthorpe
The lineage or ancestry of this family begins with a mention of Gabriel Whitaker of Balkholme Manor, who in 1710, married Hannah, daughter of John Dunnt, and died in 1761, leaving a son named William. This William Whitaker of Balkholme Manor, in 1746, married Ellin, daughter of John Peirson, and had a son with her called John. This John Whitaker was an Esquire of Balkholme Manor, who married Ann, daughter of John Horner, who died without issue in 1841. John left his property to his nephew, Thomas Wikeley, who assumed the surname Whitaker by royal license, becoming Thomas Whitaker, Esquire of Balkholme Manor. In 1825, he married Mary, daughter of Stephen Fee, leaving a child named Thomas Stephen Whitaker. He died in 1852 and was succeeded by his son Thomas. Thomas Stephen Whitaker was an Esquire of Balkholme Manor and Everthorpe, county York, who was born in 1830. In 1853, he married Annie, daughter of William Lund. The Whitaker Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Whitaker Family Crest by those unfamiliar with heraldry and genealogy) is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Sable, three mascles argent. Crest: A dexter arm in armour bearing a flaming sword proper. They resided in Everthorpe Hall, Brough, East Yorkshire, England (modern day United Kingdom).
Whitaker of Broadclough
John Whitaker was present at a meeting of the copyhold tenants of the Forest of Rossendale, which was held around the year 1510 AD. He had a son named John. John in turn had a son named James. James married Isabella, daughter of John Tattersall, and had several issue with her, including a son and heir named John. This John Whitaker married Elizabeth and had a son with her named John. This John of Broadclough was born in 1632. He married Agnes, daughter of John Townley of Hurstwood, and he had numerous children. One of his children was named John. John had a son named John as well who was born in 1691. This John married Margaret, daughter of Edward Whitaker, of Bacup, and had numerous issue with her, including a son and heir named James. James Whitaker, Esquire of Broadclough, was born in 1727, and he married Sarah Hoyle. He died in 1772 and was succeeded by his son John. This son John was an Esquire of Broadclough who was born in 1765 and he married Dorothy, daughter and heir of John Hoyle of Fairwell, and had issue with her including Dorothy (married George Ormerod) and James. His son James Whitaker was an Esquire of Broughclough and a Justice of the Peace born (date not known). In 1826, he married Harriet, daughter of John of Bankside, and had issue with her named John (see below), James (of Hamtpon Hall, Justice of the Peace, married Elizabeth Clayton, had three issue), William Henry (an M.A. born in 1833), and Eliza Henrietta (married Captain Thomas Edward Every Clayton of Carr Hall, Burnley, had children). He died in 1855. His son John Whitaker was an Esquire of Broadclough, county Lancaster and Winsley Hall, Salop, a Justice of the Peace born in 1829. In 1858, he married Elizabeth Ann, daughter of Robert Munn, Esquire of Heath Hill, Stackheads, near Manchester, England, modern day United Kingdom, and had seven issue with her as follows: James, John, Dugald Robert, Gertude, Annette, Margaret Louisa, and Mabel Harriet. The Whitaker coat of arms has the following heraldic blazon: Sable, three mascles argent. Crest: Out of a ducal coronet or, a stag’s head proper. They were seated at Broadclough, Bacup, England. They resided at Winsely Hall, Salop.
Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759-1821), Vicar of Whalley and Rector of Heysham
credit: National Portrait Gallery, London
Whitaker of The Holme
The Whitaker genealogy or Whitaker family tree begins with Thomas Whitaker who was born in 1504 AD. He was the son of Richard of Holme, who was a descendant of Thomas Whitacre who lived in 1431. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Nowell of Read, and had issue with her as follows: Robert, Richard, and William. His eldest son, Robert, married Margaret, daughter of James Greenwood, of Greenwood Lea, and he had a son named Thomas. This Thomas Whitaker married Anne, daughter of James Paliz House and Isabel Woodroof of Bantop, and had issue with her. His son William was born in 1603 and he married Mary Crabtree and had a son with her named Thomas. This Thomas Whitaker was an Esquire who was born in 1631. He married Dorothy Travis of Inchfield and Judith, daughter of James Whitaker, and had issue. His eldest son was also named Thomas. This son Thomas married Alice, daughter of John Hartley of Grimshaw, and he had a son also named Thomas. This son Thomas married Anne Thomas, of Erringden, and had two sons with her: Thomas and William. His son Thomas was born in 1726, but he died without posterity, whereupon the family estate passed to his brother William. This brother, Reverend William Whitaker of Holme, who was born in 1730. He married Lucy, daughter of Robert Dunham of Sedgford, and had a son with her named Thomas. This son, Reverend Thomas Dunham Whitaker, was a Justice of the Peace, LL.D., F.A.S., Vicar of Whalley and Blackburn, Minister of St. John’s, and a well-known historian and antiquary, born in 1759. In 1783, he married Lucy, daughter of Thomas Thoresby of Leeds, and had the following issue with her: Thomas (his heir, born 1785, Curate of Colne and Acerington, married Jane Horden, had son named Thomas Horden), William, Robert, John Richard, Lucy (married Thomas Starkie), and Mary Charlotte. He died and was succeeded by his grandson, Thomas H. Thomas Hordern Whitaker was an Esquire of The Holme and a Justice of the Peace who was born in 1814. He married his second wife in 1851. Her name was Margaret Nowell, daughter of Reverend J. Robinson, Rector of Alresford and Mrs. Nowell of Netherside and Linton. He had a daughter with her named Mary Charlotte. The Whitaker Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Whitaker Family Crest or Whitaker Family Shield) is blazoned as follows: Sable, three mascles argent. Crest: An arm in mail armour, the hand grasping a flaming sword proper. The family seat was at The Holme, near Burnley, county Lancaster.
Whitaker of Whitaker of Hesley Hall
The Whitaker family tree was established in West Riding of Yorkshire for hundreds of years. A discussion of the Whitaker genealogy or ancestry can begin with Isaac Whitaker, who with his wife Sarah, had a son named Joseph. This Joseph lived in West Ardsley and in 1794 married Mary, daughter of William Ingham of Osset and fathered seven children with her as follows: 1) William, 2) Isaac (married Caroline, daughter of Charles Hayes of Hull), 3) John (married Hannah, daughter of Reverend John Buttery, had issue named William Ingham, Emma, Mary Elizabeth, and Joseph), 4) Joseph (of Hesley Hall, moved to Sicily, was a prominent merchant there), 5) Joshua (married Sarah, daughter of Reverend John Kaye, Rector of Nunnginton in York, England), 6) Benjamin, and 7) Mary. His son Joseph Whitaker was an Esquire of Hesley Hall, county Notts, England (modern day United Kingdom), was a prominent merchant in the Island of Sicily (Italy), who was born in 1802. In 1837, he married Eliza Sophia, daughter of William Sanderson, and had eleven issue with her as follows: 1) Benjamin Ingham (Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry and Justice of the Peace who married Caroline Lucy, daughter of Frederick William Hudson of Scarborough), 2) William Ingham (of Pylewell Park, Lymington, Hants, who married Louisa Katharine Elspeth Jane, daughter of Alexander Ewing, had issue named William Ingham, Katherine Irene, and Sophia Evelyn), 3) Joshua, 4) Joseph Isaac Spadaford, 5) John Arthur, 6) Robert Sanderson, 7) Alexander Ingham, 8) Albert Edward, 9) Alexandrina Mary (married William Epps, son of James, Esquire of Palermo), 10) Sophia (married William Cunliffe, son of William Cunliffe Pickersgill of Blendon Hall, in 1865), and 11) Caroline (married Ewan, son of Eqwan Christian, Esquire, in 1864). The coat of arms for this branch of the family tree is blazoned in the medieval European art of heraldry as follows: Per pale argent and azure a chevron embattled between three mascles counterchanged. Crest: A horse passant argent, gorged with a collar gemel, and resting the dexter fore leg on a mascle azure. The family motto was Spes et fides. They family was seated at Hesley Hall, Tickhill, Rotherham, county York, England.
The lineage or ancestry of this branch of the Whitaker family tree begins with Sir Albert Edward Whitaker, the 1st Baronet, a Commander of the British Empire who was a Colonel of the Norhumberland Fusiliers, Deputy Lieutenant, Justice of the Peace, and High Sheriff who was born in 1860. He was the son of Joseph Whitaker of Hesley, county Nottingham, England, who had eight other sons as well. Albert served in both the Afghan War (1879-1880) and World War I (1914-1916). He was made a Knight in 1928 and later created a Baronet in 1936. In 1896, he married Eilseen Gertude Celeste, daughter of Colonel John Croker of the Scots Fusiliers of Limertick, and had issue with her, including a son named John. He died in 1945 and was succeeded by his son John. This Sir John Albert Charles Whitaker, 2nd Baronet, was born in March of 1897. He was a Commander of the British Empire, Deputy Lieutenant, and Justice of the Peace. He was educated at Eton. He was a Major General of the Coldstream Guards who served in World War and World War II. In 1923, he married Pamela Lucy Mary, daughter of Herbert Guy Snowdon, and had three children with her as follows: James Herbert Ingham (born in 1825, married Mary Elisabeth Lander, daughter of Ernest Johnston of Cockshut), David Arthur Edward, and Benjamin Charles George. The Whitaker Arms is blazoned as follows: Per pale argent and azure, a chevron embattled, between three mascles counterchanged. Crest: A horse passant argent, gorged with a collar gemel, and resting the dexter fore-leg on a mascle azure. Motto: Spes et fides. This family was seated at Babworth Hall, Retford, counting Nottingham, England (modern day United Kingdom or previously Great Britain) and Hesley Hall in the same county, as well as Auchnafree, Dunkeld, county Perth, Scotland.
Other Whitaker Pedigree & Family Trees
The first known ancestor or progenitor of this family was Jobias or Johias Whitacre or Whitaker who was born around 1024 AD. He fought in the Battle of Hastings on the side of the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godinwinson. Even though his side lost this famous battle, his family was allowed to retain their lands in England. He had a son named Edwinus who was born around 1050. Edwinus had a son named Sir Simon Whitacre who was born around 1080 D. Simon was a land owner in Warwickshire and was knighted in 1100 AD. He had a son named Alanus who was born in 1133 AD. Alanus had a son named Simon. Simon de Whitacre (also known as Barcheston) was born around 1180 AD. He married Ms. De Kayley and had a son with her named Jordon. Jordon Whitacre was born around 1200 AD and he married Phillipa Astleymil, and had issue with her as follows: Alice, Edmund, Thomas, Richard, Simon, and John. His son Simon was born around 1230. Simon had a son named Sir John Whitacre Knight who was born around 1275 in Burnley, Lancashire, England (modern day United Kingdom in the British Isles of Europe). He married Amica Marimon and had a son with her named Richard. Sir Richard de Whitacre was born around 1300 and was Lord of the manors of Nether Whitacre, Over Whitacre, Freasley, and Elmdon. He was principally seated at Whitacre Hall. He was knighted by King Edward III of England in 1327. He also fought in the Hundred Years War, for which he received lands in Padiham, and perhaps served the Earl of Warwick. He married Joan Culi and had issue with her. He was succeeded by his son Simon. This son was born in 1345. He married a woman named Amabil and had a son with her named John.
Here is another pedigree:
Thomas Whitaker (born in Holme, Lancashire, England in 1504 AD)
Reverend William Whitaker (born in Holme, England in 1547 AD)
Captain Jabez Whitaker (born in Lambeth, Surrey, England, married Mary Couchier, went to colonial America, had two sons William and Captain Richard)
William Whitaker (born in England in 1617, went to Virginia with his father, married Mary Elizabeth Camm, had sons named Aaron and Richard)
Aaron (born in Warwickshire in 1640, married Catherine Gough, had sons John and John, died in Baltimore Maryland)
John Whitaker (born in St. George’s Parish, Harford, Maryland in 1661, married Catherine, had issue named Elizabeth, Ruth, John, Charles, Peter, Abraham, Isaac, Hannah, Sarah, and Peter).
Charles Whitaker (born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1693, married Mary Kemball, had issue named Lurany, John, Charles, James, Mary, Catherine , Isaac, Abraham)
James Whitaker (born in Baltimore in 1726, married Mary Saunders and later Catherine Potee, had issue named Aaron, James, Isaac, Charlotte, Elizabeth, and Abraham)
Isaac (born in Maryland in 1763, married Sarah McNeel, had issue Abraham, Lewis, and James)
James Whitaker (born in Middlin, Pennsylvania around 1812, had children Isaac R. and Sarah J.)
Isaac R. (born in Mifflin, Pennsylvania around 1843)
Early American and New World Settlers
Alexander Whitaker (1585–1616) and Pocohontas, stained glass at St. Helena's chancel
credit: geograph.org.uk - 1161280.jpg
Captain Isacke Whittaker was recorded in Elizabeth City, Virginia in February 1623. A one Mary Whittakers, assumedly his wife or perhaps daughter, was also recorded in the same place and time. George Whittaker, age 32, came to Virginia aboard the Assurance of London in July 1635. Other early settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include: Alexander Whitaker (Virginia 1617), Ann Whiteacre (Virginia 1636), Richard Whitacre (New Jersey 1675), John Whitacre (Maryland 1676), Elizabeth Whitaker (Maryland 1678), John Whittaker (Virginia 1664), Avis Whitaker (Virginia 1721), Phineas Whitaker (Virginia 1724), Nathaniel (Maryland 1741), and David (America 1766)/
In Australia, one of the first bearers of this name was James Whitaker, a convict from Middlesex, England, who came to New South Wales (then a penal colony) aboard the Asia in 1822. James Whittaker, a stone cutter by trade, came to New South Wales around 1830. In 1838, a family of this name came aboard a ship named Pestonjee Bomanjee, arriving in Glenelg Roads. They were named as follows: Thomas, Amelia, Caroline, and Joseph Whittaker, and perhaps others.
In New Zealand, Frederick Whitaker came to the city of Auckland around 1840. In 1865, Richard Whittaker came to Auckland aboard the Rob Roy. In 1874, a family of this name came to the city of Wellington aboard the Soukar. They were named as follows: Austin, Bernard, Ester, and Mary.
Early Americans Bearing the Whitaker Family Crest
The following three prominent books on heraldry in America do not contain any entries for this surname or its spelling variants: Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927), Crozier’s General Armory (1904), and Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907). This is somewhat surprising, as given the surname Whitaker ranks in the top 600 surnames in the United States (as of 2000), one would expect to find some early entries in this book. This suggests to me that more people bearing the name Whitaker/Whittaker/Whiteacre perhaps came over to America from the British Isles during the nineteenth and eighteenth century, when heraldry was less popular, as opposed to the eighteenth and seventeenth century, when heraldry was more popular.
I have identified four Whitaker family mottoes:
1) Festina lente (Be quick without impetuosity)*
2) Spes et fides (Hope and faith)
3) Robur atque fides (Strength and faith)
4) Vix distat summus ab imo (The loftiest is scarcely removed from the lowest)
*This motto derives from a Greek maxim assigned by Aulus Gellous to Augustus
We have 16 coats of arms for the Whitaker surname depicted here. These 16 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it. People with this last name that bore an Whitaker Coat of Arms (or mistakenly called the Whitaker Family Crest) include:
1) Joseph Whitaker of Hedley Hall, Harworth, county Nottingham, West Ardsley, county Yokr and Palermo, Italy, 1865
2) of Royal Sands, Rochdale, county Lancashire, 1871
3) Robert Whittaker of Prospect Hill, Walton-de-Dale, county Lancashire, 1890
4) John Whittaker of Leyland, Preston, county Lancashire, England (modern day United Kingdom, previously called Great Britain), and his wife Margaret, daughter of John Ashworth of Rosehill, Bolton-le-Moors, 1897
There are hundreds of notable people with the Whitaker surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Louis Rodman Whitaker Jr. (1957), known by his nickname “Sweet Lou” or just “Lou”, was a professional baseball player who played in the MLB for the Detroit Tigers from 1977 to 1995 as a second baseman, born on Brooklyn New York, who was a five time All-Star and won one World Series in 1984, 2) William Andrew “Bill” Whitaker (1959) who was a former professional football player who played as a defensive back in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Cardinals from 1981 to 1984, having been born in Kansas City, Missouri, 3) Alexander Whitaker (1585-1616) who was an Christian theologian, born in Cambridge, England, the son of William, who went to live in colonial America, settling in Virginia Colony in 1611, who established churches near Jamestown and was known as “The Apostle of Virginia”, and he also was the person who baptized and converted the famous Native American Pocahontas, 4) Brigadier William Denis Whitaker (1915-2001) who was a solider, businessman, and athlete born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada who played quarterback from 1937-1946 for the Hamilton Tigers, a football team, and served in World War II, 5) David Whitaker (1928-1980) who was an English novelist and Television writer born in Knebworth, Hertfordshire, known for his on Doctor Who, a famous science fiction TV show that ran from 1963-1989, 6) Ewen Whitaker (1922-2016) who was a British astronomer born in London, England who worked in the United States, known for his lunar studies and work at NASA and the University of Arizona, 7) Sir Frederick Whitaker, who was the 5th Prime Minister in New Zealand, serving twice from 1863-1864 and later from 1882-1883, having also been the Attorney General, Member of New Zealand Parliament, and Speaker of the Legislative Council, born in the Deanery Manor House, Bampton, county Oxfordshire, England, the son of Frederick and Susanna, 8) Jared Irwin Whitaker (1818-1885) who was a newspaperman and politican who became the 14th Mayor of Atlanta in 1861 at the start of the American Civil War, 9) George William Whitaker (1840-1916) who was a prominent painter of landscapes of Rhode Island, known as the “Sean of Providence Painters”, who was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, and 10) John Albert Whitaker (1901-1951) who was a member of the US House of Representatives for Kentucky from 1948-1951.
Tobias Whitaker (c. 1601-1664), Physician
credit: National Portrait Gallery, London
William Whitaker (c. 1547-1595), theologian & college head
credit: National Portrait Gallery, London