By Don Taylor
Forebears indicates Whitney is derived from a location, “of Whitey,” a parish in Herefordshire. Ancestry suggests that it probably comes from hwit, meaning “white.” However, Genealogy Bank indicates the name probably refers to the River Wye, which runs through the rea of Whitney in Herefordshire. In any event, they all agree that the surname derives from a location in Herefordshire, England. Herefordshire is in the West Midlands of England, bordering Wales.
The surname Whitney is predominately in the United States, with 83% of the people in the world with the surname living in the US. It is most common in the Falkland Islands, where one in 224 people have the surname.
In the United States, New York, Massachusetts, and Texas have the largest number of Whitney’s, and Maine had the greatest frequency where one in 1,322 people have the surname.
Direct Whitney Ancestors
- 4th Great-grandmother: Sarah Whitney (1773-1813)*
- 5th Great-grandfather: John Whitney (1849-___)*
- 6th Great-grandfather: Joshua Whitney (1712-1751)*
- 7th Great-grandfather: Joshua Whitney (1687-1771)*
- 8th Great-grandfather: Benjamin Whitney (___-___)*[i]
* – Individuals marked with “*” have not been independently researched and confirmed by me. The names and dates are tentative and unverified.
Sarah Whitney was born on 11 July 1773 in Dedham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts Colony. I have not yet determined who my immigrant ancestor was nor when he arrived in the Colonies. However, Dedham was settled in 1635; my Whitney ancestors could reach back then.
Direct Whitney Descendants
I have 297 known descendants of Benjamin Whitney, including 27 Barnes, 23 Taft, 21 Roberts, and 17 Ransford. Two hundred eighty-nine of them are direct descendants of Sarah Whitney. I have previously written about four of those descendants.
5. – Grandmother:Essie Pansy Barnes (1903-1982)
11. – 1st Great-grandfather: Joel Clinton Barnes(1857-1921)
Select Newspaper Articles 1884-1921 regarding Joel Clinton Barnes
21. – 2nd Great-grandfather: Mercy Eliza Taft(1822-1884)
42. – 3rd Great-grandfather: Joel Cruff Taft (1800-1849)
Joel Cruff Taft & the 1840 Census.
Joel Cruff Taft & the 1830 Census.
Joel Cruff Taft & the 1810 Census.
Probably the most famous Whitney is Eli Whitney, Jr., known for inventing the cotton gin. Daniel Lawrence Whitney, known professionally as Larry the Cable guy, is a well-known comedian. And the little-known Josiah Whitney, the state geologist of California, you may not have heard of; however, Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the 48 contiguous United States, was named for him.
- Ancestry Surname Page: https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Whitney.
- Forebears Surnames Page: https://forebears.io/surnames/whitney
- Genealogy Bank Page: https://www.genealogybank.com/last-name-meaning?last_name=Whitney
- Ancestry – Don Taylor’s Roberts-Brown 2021 tree on Ancestry.
[i] Benjamin’s wife, Jane Poore, is currently the highest Ahnentafel number in my Roberts-Barnes line. (She is my most-distant known ancestor on my paternal side.)