Surname Saturday - Whitney

I've recently been trying to expand my family research into the Whitney line, which is on the paternal side of my family tree. I wish I'd focused on this line sooner, because it's taken me quite far back into my family history and I've found some very interesting new ancestors. So, I decided I'd throw a spotlight on the Whitney name for this weeks' Surname Saturday.

The surname of Whitney was originally a place name. The family takes its name from Whitney parish located in County Hereford (Herefordshire) in England. It's located on the extreme western border adjoining Wales and the river Wye travels through it. The name Whitney may also be derived from the Anglo-Saxon hwit, meaning white, and ey, meaning water. Before surnames, early landowners of Whitney were Eustace, or Baldwin, or Robert de Whitney--de meaning of. It was often spelled Wytteneye. Over the course of a few centuries, however, the de was dropped and an h was added and the most common spelling became Whitney. The name can be traced back to the year 1086 to one Eustace of Whitney.

The Whitney family has a strong history in England. One Sir Robert Whitney was knighted before Queen Mary after her coronation in 1553. Sir Eustace de Whitney was knighted by Edward I in 1306. Sir Robert Whitney was knight marshal in the court of Richard the II. His son Robert was granted Clifford Castle by Henry IV. And there were two Whitney ancestors who descended from William the Conqueror. Not to mention my 14th great grandfather, Robert Whitney (there were a lot of Roberts!), who was nominated Knight of the Bath by Henry VIII at the coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1531.

That's a lot of cool English history right there. But I'm going to focus on the first Whitney in my family tree to reach America, which was my paternal 10th great grandfather, John Whitney. It's fascinating to me that someone with such strong ties to England and a remarkable lineage decided to make his way to America so long ago.

John Whitney Watertown Massachusetts 1635 - Ancestry Chick