Select 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 nickname 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 England 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.
Select White Resources on The Internet
England.  White appeared as a name in pre-1066 documents, possibly to describe the pale Saxons or Vikings in contrast to the darker original Celts.

Early Whites 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 Yorkshire, 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 1765.

The Whites of London were early cloth merchants, most notably Sir Thomas 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 decidedly 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 reference - an Uwiaett Hwite in Coldringham, Berwickshire in 1097 - may have been English.

White was also a semi-translation of the Highland Gaelic Mac GhilleBhain, "son of the fair-haired servant or youth."  And Whyte was adopted as a name by many of the MacGregors and Lamonts when they 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 eighth generation.

Walter Whyte was part of Strongbow's invasion force in 1170 and the Whyte name started to appear in Limerick from 1213.  A 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. 

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

Today the surname is mostly found in Clare, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and KilkennyThe spelling is roughly 80% White and 20% Whyte.

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 1630.

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 from Somerset, possibly related, arrived in 1638 and settled in Salem, Massachusetts.

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 for London in 1783.

Moses and Hugh White from Scottish Covenanter roots had come from Ireland to Bucks county, Pennsylvania in 1722.  John White, born in Rowan county, North Carolina, was a captain in the county’s militia 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.  Later Whites of this line started the White Furniture company in Mebane, North Carolina in 1881. 

Robert White, also from a Covenanter family, was the progenitor of a distinguished White political 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 Frederick county, Virginia.  He built his home White Hall there and started his 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 Louisiana 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 from Louisiana.  He was a cattleman and came to be known as the “Cattle King of SE Texas.” 
His cattle brand, the "crossed W" inherited from his father in 1806, continued to be used by later Whites.

Australia.  James White and his wife Sarah from Somerset arrived in Sydney in 1826 and acquired land in the Hunter valley district of NSW:  
  • 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 a well-known breeder of Aberdeen Angus cattle, his grandson Patrick White became Australia’s most renowned author.  
John and George White were early settlers in South Australia in 1836.

Select White Miscellany

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

Select White Names

John White of Dorchester was the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony which sent the Pilgrims to America.
James 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 Literature.
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)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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