This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from a place near Hay in Herefordshire thus called. Recorded as "Witenie" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and as "Whyteneye" in the 1283 Charter Rolls of that county, the place was so named from the Olde English pre 7th Century "hwitan", from "hwit", white, with "eg", island, piece of land surrounded by streams. The initial element may also be the Olde English personal byname "Hwita", White, hence, "Hwita's island", or, "white island". Locational surnames were originally given to the lord of the manor, or as a means of identification to those who left their place of origin to settle elsewhere. Early examples of the surname include: John de Witteneye, Thomas de Whytene and Robert de Wyttenye, recorded respectively in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Suffolk, Nottinghamshire and Herefordshire. In 1604, one Henry Whitney, of Herefordshire, was entered in the Oxford University Register, and in April 1635, John Whitney, aged 35 yrs., embarked from London on the ship "Elizabeth and Ann" bound for New England, and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. A prominent American family of the name are descended from this early settler. A Coat of Arms granted to the Whitneys of Herefordshire described as "a knightly family of remote antiquity, founded by one Eustace (see below)", is an azure shield, charged with a cross chequy gold and sable. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Eustace de Whitney, which was dated 1086, in the "Records of the Manor of Whitney", Herefordshire, during the reign of King William 1, known as "William the Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as 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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