This unusual and interesting name, found mainly in Lancashire and the northern counties of England, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is an occupational surname with two possible and distinct derivations. Firstly, it may be an occupational name for a bleacher or whitewasher, from the Middle English "whit", white, a development of the Olde English pre 7th Century "hwit", with the agent suffix "-er". The first recording of the surname, below, is from this source, and the variant forms range from Whiter and Whitter to Whitta and Wheater. One Henry le Witere or le Wytter was recorded in the Warwickshire Assize Rolls of 1221. Secondly, the surname Witter may be an occupational name for a white-leather dresser, one who tawed skins into white-leather, derived from the Middle English "whit", white, and "tawyere, towyere", a development of the West Saxon "tawian", to taw, to make skins into leather by steeping them in a solution of alum and salt until white and pliant. The surname from this source is first recorded in the late 12th Century as Ralf Wittauuere, in Northamptonshire, and can also be found as Whittier, Whit(t)ear and Whit(e)hair. The marriage of Thomas Witter and Margaret Thomasson was recorded at St. Nicholas', Liverpool, on June 5th 1606, and Henrye, son of Anthonye Witter, was christened in Waddington, Yorkshire, on November 5th 1617. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Witer, which was dated 1181, in the "Cartulary of St. Mary's", Clerkenwell, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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