Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whittington: Sapere aude---Dare to be Wise

The Whittington family name is English in origin, but is now widespread across the globe. A perusal of reveals that there are more than 270,000 registered family trees that include the name Whittington; every state in the U.S. hosts one or more Whittington family. Based on U.S. immigration records, most of the Whittington’s came from England, although a small number also emigrated from Ireland, Germany and Norway.

The Whittington roots of our family derive from Gloucestershire, England, which is located in the southwest portion of the country along the River Severn, and bordering Wales. Indeed, some of the earliest recorded records of the Whittington name derive from this part of the country, including England’s favorite, Richard Whittington (ca. 1350-1423). One can certainly argue that we are descended from English nobility; however, Clare’s descendant list extends back only to 1709. By this time, the Whittington’s were no longer held in high regard with the English nobility, having lost prestige and status. Perhaps future research will firmly associate us with the early nobles of Whittington.

So where does the Family motto come from? I have no idea. It is printed above several variations of coat-of-arms that I’ve located on the Internet. I’ll update you whenever I find out. So what of the coat-of-arms? A Google search of the Whittington Family Crest will result in a wide variety of arms, one of which adorns the family book published in 2010. However, the Coat-of-Arms does not apply to the surname, but only to male individuals and their descendants; hence the wide variety. The College of Arms (the official repository of registered arms) provides a good definition on their website:

Do coats of arms belong to surnames? A. No. There is no such thing as a 'coat of arms for a surname'. Many people of the same surname will often be entitled to completely different coats of arms, and many of that surname will be entitled to no coat of arms. Coats of arms belong to individuals. For any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past.

In other words, we must first have a male descendant who registered a coat of arms in order for us to actually claim one. Unfortunately, the College of Arms does not appear to have an online search engine to look up coats-of-arms. Perhaps in a later post, I will display the variety of coats-of-arms related to the Whittington Family.