White Surname Genealogy

White in England could owe his name
from an
ancestor bearing the Old English name Hwita,
from hwit or white, or be a
for someone with white
hair or an unnaturally pale complexion. The German Weiss has a similar origin, as does
the Dutch Witt or de Witt.
White in Scotland and Ireland, if not an implant, would have
displaced the Gaelic ban or fionn, meaning “white” or
“fair.” And a number of the French Huguenots fleeing France for
in the 17th century
changed their names from Blanc to White.

Other suggestions for the origin of the White name have been:

  • from the Anglo-Saxon wiht,
    meaning “valiant,” which gave rise to both the White and Wight names
  • from atte wyte, one who
    lived by a bend in the river
  • or from Wait or White,
    a place name in Devon.

White Resources on

England. White
appeared as a name in pre-1066 documents,
possibly to describe the pale Saxons or Vikings in contrast to the
original Celts.


in England were Walter Whyte, knighted by Henry II in 1171 and probably
the first known bearer of the White surname, and Robert Whyte of
knighted in 1303

Another Robert White was a merchant at Calais across the
Channel in the late 1400’s. These Whites
were based at Farnham in
Surrey for
several generations.
From this
family came the White landowners in Nottinghamshire.
Thomas White held Tuxford Manor in
Elizabethan times and they maintained their fortunes through propitious
marriages, with the Wallingwells heiress in 1698 and the Woollaston
heiress in

The Whites of London were early cloth merchants, most notably Sir
White who was Lord Mayor of London in 1553. He was a principal
member of
the guild of merchant taylors and helped found the Merchant Taylors’
School in
London. A Catholic, he also founded St.
John’s College in Oxford.

At the same time Thomas White, a descendant of the
Farnham Whites, was Warden of New College, Oxford and a man of
Puritan views. His nephew was the Rev.

John White who became the patriarch of Dorchester and founder of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The spelling here could be either White or Whyte. The earliest
– an Uwiaett Hwite in Coldringham, Berwickshire in 1097 – may have been

White was also a semi-translation of the Highland Gaelic Mac
, “son of the fair-haired servant or youth.” And
Whyte was adopted as a name by many of the MacGregors and Lamonts when
were outlawed and had their own names proscribed.

But both White and Whyte have
been more a Lowland name. The spelling
today is about 65% White and 35% Whyte.
Robert Whytte was the first Provost of Kirkcaldy in Fife in 1658. John White began his company in Fife making
weighing machines in 1715 and it is still operating today under the

Ireland. Walter
was part of Strongbow’s invasion force in 1170 and
the Whyte name started to appear in Limerick from 1213.
branch of this family
became landed gentry in county Clare.
Father James White, who compiled a history of Limerick in 1738,
was from
this family. Simon White
was sheriff of Limerick City in 1684 and its mayor in
1696. Another White family, this time
Catholic, was based at Knocksentry in Limerick.

The Whites of Waterford first began to
appear among the list of mayors in 1414.
This family resided at Whyteshall
near Clonmel in county Kilkenny. Sir Nicholas White was Master of the Rolls in the
reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Whites in Ireland were later English or Scottish arrivals. Sir
White came to Cork in the 1660’s, having acquired land there, and his
held estates on Bantry Bay until 1913.
Scots Whites tended to settle in Ulster.

the surname is mostly found in Clare, Galway,
Limerick, Waterford and Kilkenny
. The spelling is roughly 80% White and 20%

America. The White name figured
prominently in the early English settlement of America. John
White, a
Puritan preacher in Dorchester, was the founder of the Massachusetts
Bay Colony
which sent the first large party of English people to settle in New
England in

He himself never sailed to America. Other Whites did.
William White was a passenger on the Mayflower who died during
the first
winter. But his son Peregrine White, who was the
first English child
born to
the Pilgrims in the New World, did survive. Meanwhile, John White
Somerset, possibly related, arrived in 1638 and settled in Salem,

Thomas White came to Maryland from London as a surveyor in 1720 and
later moved onto Philadelphia. There he
was the founder of what became the University of Pennsylvania. His son William was the first Episcopal
Bishop of Pennsylvania. Related Whites
in New York was wealthy merchants who as ardent Loyalists had to depart
London in 1783.

and Hugh White from Scottish Covenanter roots
had come from Ireland to Bucks county, Pennsylvania in 1722. John
born in Rowan county, North Carolina, was a captain in the county’s
during the Revolutionary War and led an expedition in 1783 into the
upper Tennessee
valley where he set his eyes on the future site of Knoxville.
Whites of this line started the White Furniture company in Mebane,
Carolina in 1881.

Robert White, also from
a Covenanter family, was the progenitor of a distinguished White
family of Virginia and West Virginia. He had resigned his
position in the
Royal Navy in England and set off for America in the 1720’s because his
sweetheart was there. He became one of the first settlers of
county, Virginia. He built his home White Hall there and
physician’s practice.

Another Virginia White family began with the marriage of
James Taylor White and Elizabeth Powe in Orange county around the year
1730. They moved to the Carolinas in the
1750’s. Their son James was in
Mississippi (Natchez) in 1782 and his line was later to be found in
and Texas.

James’s son Martin White,
who crossed into Spanish
Texas in 1822, was a Texas pioneer.
Taylor White, probably related, arrived in Texas in 1828, also
Louisiana. He was a cattleman and came
to be known as the “Cattle King of SE Texas.”
cattle brand, the “crossed W”
inherited from his father in 1806, continued to be used by later Whites

James White and his wife Sarah from Somerset arrived
in Sydney in 1826 and acquired land in the Hunter valley district of

  • their eldest son James, born in 1828, grew up
    to be a well-known racehorse owner and breeder
  • son William became an Archdeacon and
    son Edward a cattle rancher in the
    Hunter valley
  • but it was another son
    Francis who was to have the most famous offspring.
    His son James was
    well-known breeder of Aberdeen Angus cattle, his
    grandson Patrick White became Australia’s most renowned author.

and George White
were early settlers in South Australia in 1836

White Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select White Names

of Dorchester was the founder of the Massachusetts Bay
Colony which sent the Pilgrims to America.
and Ellen White
were the co-founders of the Seventh day
Adventist Church in the 1840’s.
Stanford White was a well-known
American architect, sensationally murdered in 1906.
Harry Dexter White was an
economist and Treasury official who was the prime mover behind the 1944
Bretton Woods agreement.  Patrick White was the
award-winning Australian novelist who won the 1973 Nobel Prize for
Barry White was an American
soul singer from Texas.

Select Whites Today
  • 182,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 239,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 120,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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