Recorded as Wetter, Witter, Wheater, Whether, Whittier, Whittear, and Whitehair, this unusual and interesting surname is English. It is said to be found mainly in the northern counties of England. There are two possible and distinct origins. Firstly, it may be occupational for a bleacher or whitewasher. This is from the Olde English pre 7th century word "hwit", meaning white, and the suffix "-er", to imply a worker. The first recording of the surname as shown below, is from this source with Henry le Witere being recorded in the Warwickshire Assize Rolls of 1221. Secondly, the surname may be a name for a white leather dresser, one who tanned skins. This again is from "hwhit", and the West Saxon word "tawian", meaning to steep leather in a solution of alum and salt until white and pliant. The surname from this source is first recorded in the late 12th Century with Ralf Wittauuere of Northamptonshire in 1327. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Witer. This was dated 1181, in the cartulary of St. Mary's Clerkenwell, in the city of London, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, known as "The church builder", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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