This rare and interesting name is of Medieval English origin and is a dialectal variant of the locational name Withenbury, a so called 'lost' village probably once to be found in Worcestershire or Gloucestershire, which is suggested by the fact that recordings of this surname are found in these counties. The derivation is from the Old English pre 7th Century 'withig', a willow, and 'byrig', a burg or fort. The phenomenon of the lost village was a result of enforced land clearance during the 12th and 13th Centuries, at the height of the wool industry, to make way for sheep pasture. It is estimated that here are between seven and ten thousand such places that have disappeared from British maps. One Sarah Whittenbury married Thomas Lees on May 31st 1789 at St. Philip's, Birmingham, The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of James Withenbery, which was dated May 13th 1649, during the reign of King Charles 1, 'The Martyr', 1625 - 1649. 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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