There are Whiteheads, in number – all over the world. The information I am providing here is limited to ‘my branch’ of Whiteheads. Based on a small sample I took from my branch our most popular christian boy and girl names are James and Sarah.
With my research to date it is highly likely that our Whitehead family origins in England were predominantly from the Normans. Probably not too much of a stretch to work out the meaning of the name meaning ‘a white haired person or fair one’. Old English is the oldest form of English and bears only a passing resemblance to the English we speak today. Hwit is an old English word for white and heafdu for head. When you join them together and say them to yourself with the orignal pronunciation you can pick up hwit heafdu and you get ‘whithud’. You also get where the name got it’s two syllable pronunciation from. From 1066 the Norman barons introduced surnames into England to distinguish people and families from each other. The name Whitehead is listed among these early Norman names and I encourage you to read Norman names for more information on this. Having said all of this, if you are a Whitehead you will almost undoubtedly have been asked at least once in you life, “How do you spell that?” which will of course have left you staring in incredulous blankness at the questioner.
The Normans thus named for their homeland of Normandy in what is now France came over with William the Conquerer.
The Normans themselves had come to Normandy from Scandinavia as sea-warring Vikings who had settled the Frankish northern lands by plantation after Charles III (the simple) ceded them the land and invited them to settle there. The name came from Nor(se) Man or northern man which then became Norman. Their area or France being Normandy and under their own rule until much later. Vikings of course had been landing in and marrying into the Anglo-Saxon population since they first worked out how to get their long boats to the East Anglian shores around AD793. I mean the poor old English folk as they stood then, hadn’t had much time on their own, the Romans had only cleared out AD410
To date the earliest I have been able to get back in my most direct line (The Whitehead line) appears at this time to be William Whytehead 1723 – 1812 and Mary Bassenden both of Kent. The name in this generation appears to have taken on its more modern spelling of Whitehead. Having said that – the Whytehead/Whitehead family are anything but modern or new to Kent in England. With great thanks and appreciation for the work done by the East Kent Archaeological Society I was able to find records of which I am almost certain will be connected to our Whitehead’s in East Kent (which incidentally is where ours hailed from in the main). The records I have found go back to the time of Henry VIII in 1509!
So whilst I don’t to assume a claim on these as direct ancestors it is probable that they are related to us in some way. I thought I’d done well when I found a Mary Whitehead in Ashford in East Kent in 1611.
From Kent Archaeology, Feet of Fines records record an Elizabeth and William Whitehead and a James and Joan Whitehed (keep an eye on the spelling). Feet of Fines were introduced as the first way of documenting and recording legal disputes, usually over land settlements in England. It was in this record that I was able to find some Whiteheads. Whitehead Elizabeth and William. I also found them recorded in the old English version of Whytehead and even Whithed. ‘Whitehed James and Joan.: Recorded as – 2335. Jas Whitehed & wife Joan to Jn Webbe. 2 mess & 20a land in Stalisfield. 50 mks. (13)’. From this I think we can safely assume that our Whitehead’s had a little bit of land. I don’t think we are going to find them as nobles by any stretch of the imagination but it is interesting to think that they had been in that part of Kent for hundreds of years.