Paternal Line – The Whitehead Family

 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.

Whitehead Name Popularity Graph

Origin of Whitehead Family?

With my research to date, it is highly likely that our Whitehead family origins in England were Norman.  Probably not too much of a stretch to work out the meaning of the name meaning (from the Old English) ‘a white haired person or fair one’. Old English being the oldest form of English and bearing 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 original 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.  Despite what seems to be a pretty reasonable assumption of how the name came about, if you are indeed 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 querent (true story).

 The Normans named for their homeland of Normandy in what is now France came over to England with William the Conquerer in 1066.

East Anglia was the area that was initially invaded by the Norse Men

The Normans (earning their name from their place of origin (Normandy), had originally come to France (which wasn’t France as we know it now) from Scandinavia as 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 of France being Normandy remained under their own rule until much later. Vikings of course had been landing in, settling and marrying into the Anglo-Saxon population since they first worked out how to get their long boats to the shores of East Anglia around 793 AD. 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 410 AD. When the Romans were in Kent is was called Durovernum Cantiacorum.

2023 update: Having had my DNA testing completed, I was pleasantly surprised to find (in my DNA passed down to me from my father) both Swedish and Danish ancestry. Albeit in very small amounts, but it does support the educated guess I’ve long held with some of the story of how the Whitehead’s got to Kent in England in the first place!

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.

5 thoughts on “Paternal Line – The Whitehead Family

  1. Hello again, I have just worked out the link my husbands ancestor was James Stephen Whitehead( 1860-1941) brother of your ancestor John W Whitehead(1856-1940).
    Denise Whitehead

  2. Great grandfather was named James Lloyd whitehead. He was from georgia and lived here his entire life alongside 10 or so brothers and sisters.

    • I am searching for my grandfather Oscar or Arthur Whitehead from around Coxhran Georgia. My grandmother was Odessa Robertson and my mother was born in 1942.

  3. Hello again, I am researching my husband’s family all going well until William Whitehead born(1722, 1723,1747) marriage to Mary Bassenden and death dates stack up but to find The father of William Whitehead (my late husband 4th great grandfather is proving difficult.)
    Are you able to help or advise or share this part of a tree with me please.
    Only other option is to link wishfully or jump the ditch after covid and pick your brain.
    Keep safe and thanks for all your work
    Dee Whitehead

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