Whittaker Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Whittaker Meaning
The root of this surname is the place-name
Whiteacre, from the Old English hwit meaning “white” and aecer
“cultivated land.” This place-name
translated into the early Whitacre name in Warwickshire and the later
name in Lancashire. The Warwickshire
line died out and Lancashire has been where most of this name were to
Whitaker and Whittaker are
the main spellings. The spelling in
Lancashire tended to end up Whittaker; while that in neighboring
Yorkshire and
for those emigrants to America it has been Whitaker

Whittaker Resources on

Whittaker Ancestry

England. Whitaker as a surname is Saxon in origin,
predating the Norman Conquest and going initially by the name of de
Whytacre. This
Whitacre family in
was to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086 and
rose to some
prominence in later medieval times.

Lancashire. It is possible that that
was some linkage
between the Whitacres of Warwickshire and the Whitakers in Lancashire,
but none
has really been documented.

There have been two long-established Whitaker families in
the Ribble valley district of Lancashire near Burnley, one at
Simonstone and
the other at Holme:

  • Richard de Whitaker, from High Whitaker, was recorded as living at Simonstone in 1333. The Whitakers of Simonstone Hall had their property seized and then restored during the Civil War and Restoration period. Charles Whitaker died at
    Simonstone in 1843.
  • Thomas Whitaker, recorded in 1431, is believed to have
    been the forebear of the Whitakers of Holme-in-Cliviger. Richard Whitaker was living at Holme in 1543.
“The most distinguished of the Whitakers of Holme was the celebrated divine, the Rev. William Whitaker, professor of divinity at Cambridge University, whose library was so famous that it was purchased after his death in 1595 by Queen Elizabeth I.

Later came Dr. T.D. Whitaker, born in 1759, who was the vicar of
Whalley and a well-known historian. The Holme estate remained in family hands until 1959.

Other branches in the area were the Whitakers at Broadclough and
Huncoat. One Whittaker line came from Whittaker near
Rochdale. The early spelling in Lancashire had been de
Quitacre. The transition in spelling from Whitaker to Whittaker
began in the 1500’s.

. Whitakers extended across the Pennines into the
West Riding of Yorkshire. Jeremiah Whitaker, the noted Puritan
clergyman, was born in Wakefield in 1599. Other Whitakers were to
be found in Dewsbury at this time. The name had reached the
parish of Howden in east Yorkshire by the 1640’s. A Whitaker
family there later took possession of Balkholme manor.

Joseph Whitaker, from a west Yorkshire trading family, had moved to
Sicily in the early 1800’s and developed a fortified wine industry at
Marsala on the island of Motya. A later Joseph Whitaker of
this family was a well-known ornithologist, as well as being an
anthropologist and wine producer. He died in Rome in 1936.
Meanwhile Benjamin Whitaker had returned to England and acquired Hesley Hall
near Doncaster.

Whitaker, born around 1520, was the forebear of one of the most
families of the Wiltshire woolen industry during Tudor times.
He may have come from one of the Lancashire Whitaker families,
but there is no proof
of this. He and his sons Henry and
Stephen operated a mill at Westbury.
Henry and his son William were both MP’s for Shaftesbury.

Another west country line dates back to the marriage of Nicholas and
Martha Whitaker in Halesowen, Worcestershire in 1623.

Ireland. There is a
Whittaker line at Abbeyleix in present-day county Laios that apparently
went back to three Whittaker brothers granted lands there at the time
of Cromwell. Their mill was burnt down by Irish rebels in
1798. Many of these Whittakers departed for Canada in 1848 at the
time of the potato famine.

America. Two sons
of the divine Dr William Whitaker of Holme in Lancashire came to the
early Jamestown colony in Virginia:

  • the
    first being Alexander, known as the
    Apostle of Virginia
    , who arrived in
    1611 but drowned in the James river in 1617.
  • and the
    second being the youngest son Jabez who arrived in 1619, survived the
    Indian massacre three years
    later, and
    died there in 1626.

Whitaker line
descended from Captain Jabez Whitaker was covered in Charles Brashear’s
book Whitakers of Holme and America. Richard
and William Whitaker were later
sizeable landowners in the Jamestown area.
One line moved to Enfield, North Carolina and thence to Georgia.
Another line settled in the Camden district
of South Carolina. William Whitaker
this line was an early settler in Florida in the place now known as

John Whitaker sometimes Whitacre was believed to have been an
indentured servant arriving in Virginia around the year 1690 who then
moved onto Maryland and acquired land known as Whitaker’s Ridge in the
vicinity of Baltimore.

His grandson the Rev. John Whitaker, born there in 1722, became head of
his family at the tender age of nineteen (after the death of his
parents) and moved them twice:

  • first
    he moved them west to new land along the Monongahela river in what is
    today Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He established the village of
    Whitaker there. Many Whitakers lived and died and were buried
  • then
    in 1780, with the Revolutionary War still raging (and his sons Abraham
    and Aquilla engaged in that conflict), he moved the family west again
    to Beargrass Creek in Kentucky. John was one of just five
    frontier Baptist preachers active in Kentucky at that time. He
    continued preaching at the Beargrass Baptist church in Shelby county
    until his death in 1798.

North Carolina.
William Whitaker was from a line of Quaker Whitakers from Lancashire
that had settled in Philadelphia in the early 1700’s. After a
devastating fire at his home there in 1751, he moved his family to
Rowan county in North Carolina. By 1767 Joshua and Mary
Whitaker were also to be found in Rowan county (their children later
moved to Buncombe county); while other Whitakers were in Surry county,
North Carolina at this time. Interestingly, North Carolina had
the largest number of Whitakers in America in 1840 and still has the
largest number today.

Australia and New Zealand. James Whittaker was a convict who was transported to Australia for
larceny in 1828. He later became a successful businessman in
South Australia. But he died when the ship on which he was
travelling hit the rocks in 1859 on its way to Melbourne.

James Henry Whittaker, born in Manchester, came to New Zealand in 1890
and six years later started making confectionary chocolate in
Wellington. His business remains family-owned with the
third generation, Andrew and Brian, now in charge and Whittaker’s rivalling Cadbury’s as the largest chocolate
brand in New Zealand.


Whittaker Miscellany

Whitakers and Whittakers Today

Numbers (000’s) Whitaker Whittaker Total
UK    10    23    33
America    17     6    23
Elsewhere     2     7     9
Total    29    36    65

The Whittaker spelling predominates in Lancashire, the Whitaker spelling in Yorkshire.

The Whitacre Family of Warwickshire.  By tradition this family was descended from Wihtgar, a nephew of Cedric the king of the West Saxons.  It was said that Johias Whitacre
died fighting at the Battle of Hastings on the side of King Harold.  Nevertheless this Saxon family was apparently
allowed to keep their lands in Warwickshire after the Norman Conquest.

Simon de Whitacre was recorded as a landowner
in Warwickshire at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086.
The principal seat was at Whitacre Hall, a
medieval fortified manor house in Nether Whitacre.
Jordan de Whitacre appeared to have held the
Whitacre manor in 1203.

Richard Whitacre was
knighted by Edward III in
1327.  He later fought
in the King’s
retinue during the English victories at Calais and Crecy in
France.  For this
it is believed
that he received lands in Lancashire and some of his
descendants might have migrated there.  The
name in Warwickshire does not seem to have lasted beyond the

The Whitakers of Holme in Lancashire.  The first Whitaker to arrive at The Holme is thought to have been Richard de Quitacre who came to Cliviger from Padiham in 1340.  Thomas
Whitaker was recorded at The Holme in 1431.  The Whitaker 40 room
manor house, completed in 1603, rested on the site of an earlier

built of wood, the center and eastern wings were rebuilt in 1603.
The west remained of wood until 1717 and had one or more private
closets for the concealment of priests, the family having continued as
recusants until the end of Elizabeth’s reign if not later.”

The Holme remained in Whitaker family hands until 1959.
Afterwards it served for a time as a nursing or retirement home.
In March 2003 the middle and east wings burned down (the police
suspected arson).  Three hundred year old oak beams fell in on the
walnut floor in the living room with its fieldstone fireplace and
mirrored wall.  The west wing of the building and the 1859
northeast additions did survive.

The Whitakers of Hesley Hall in Yorkshire.  The Whitakers were an old Yorkshire trading family that had moved to Sicily in the early 1800’s to develop the fortified wine industry at Marsala.  Grown rich, Benjamin Whitaker – the eldest of twelve
children of Joseph and Eliza Whitaker – had returned to England in the
late 1800’s and acquired Hesley Hall near Doncaster.

Hall had one of the largest households in the area in 1901 with an
indoor staff consisting of a chaplain, butler, housekeeper, two
footmen, and six maids.  The outdoor staff included a coachman,
groom, gardener, farm bailiff, gamekeeper, and several farm workers.

Whitaker was an important part of the local gentry scene until his
death at the age of 83
in 1922.  When his wife Caroline died in 1941 Sir Albert Whitaker
inherited the Hesley estate.  Hesley Hall later became a School
for Crippled Children.

The Apostle of Virginia.  Alexander Whitaker was a son of Dr. William Whitaker of Holme,
the noted English divine.  In 1611, at
the age of 26, he made his way to the new English colony at Jamestown
Virginia.  There he established two
churches and was known as “the Apostle of Virginia” by his

He was a
religious leader with both settlers and natives.  In
1613 he was responsible for the baptism
and conversion of Pocahantas.   Pocahantas
and her husband John Rolfe stayed with him for a time at his Rock Hall plantation in Henricus.

relative tolerance of the Native American
population that English colonists encountered can be found in his
sermons, some
of which were sent back to England to help win support for the new
colonies in
North America.

The most
famous of these
sermons was Good News from Virginia, in
which he described the native population as servants
of sin and slaves of the devil,” but also recognized them as sons of Adam who are “a very
understanding generation, quick of
apprehension, sudden in their dispatches, subtle in their dealings,
in their inventions, and industrious in their labor.”

in 1617, at the young age of 32,
he drowned while attempting to cross the James river.   He was unmarried
and left no issue.

James Whittaker in Australia.  In 1828
James Whittaker was convicted for larceny in London
and sentenced to life transportation to Australia.  He
duly arrived in Sydney harbor at the end of
the year on the Royal George.

worked at Parramatta in NSW until he finally
received his pardon in 1845 and he then moved to the mining town of
Kapunda in South
Australia.  There he operated a general
and opened a hotel, the Sir John Franklin Hotel. He
became a successful and respected businessman,
and a wealthy one, before retiring in 1854.

In 1859,
despite being ill, he took sail for
Melbourne and the horse races.  He was
confident that the ship, the Admella,
was “unsinkable” and tore up his will as a sign of his faith.  But the ship hit Carpenters Rocks and 87 lives
were lost including James.  Many of the
businessmen offered $100 to anyone who could swim to shore and raise
the alarm.
The captain knew that the ship was about
to sink and yelled for all to get on deck.  James,
being so sick, was left behind and

The next
months saw the Whittaker
family travelling to South Australia to claim a share of the legacy he
left.  Most of the fortune was in fact lost
lawyers as various family members fought each other for their share.  The story that he had a large number of golden
sovereigns in a belt around his waist as he drowned lives on.


Whittaker Names

  • Sir Richard de Whitacre, from a Saxon family, was Lord of the Manor of Nether Whitacre and a prominent
    Warwickshire landowner of the 14th century.   
  • Dr. William Whitaker from Holme in Lancashiire was one of the leading English Protestant scholars and churchmen of the 16th century.  
  • Joseph Whitaker was the first of a family of Whitakers that became important in the iron and steel business in
    Pennsylvania during the 19th and 20th centuries. 
  • Joseph Whitaker, a London bookseller, launched Whitaker’s Almanack in 1869, an annual reference book which was to have immediate and lasting success.

Select Whittaker Numbers Today

  • 33,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 28,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 9,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Whittaker and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from Lancashire.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.



Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply