Origins of the White Family
The surname "White" is said to derive from the middle English word "whit" meaning "white" which was used as a nickname for a person with very light hair or complexion. In some cases it derives from the Anglo-Saxon word " whit" meaning valiant or alternatively may have originated as a local name from the Isle Of Wight, off the south coast of England. In the latter case it is interesting to note that the National Trust map of British surnames for 1881 shows that the highest concentration of people with the surname White was living in Hampshire and Dorset - and the name gradually became less common in more northerly counties with the surname being relatively common in Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire as well as Oxfordshire. Apart from groupings of the name in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire as well as Lothian and the eastern borders of Scotland, the name is quite rare north of Warwickshire. This suggests that the Whites may have originally lived on the south coast, in Wessex or The Isle Of Wight, and then gradually migrated northwards resulting in our ancestors arriving at, and living in, north Oxfordshire before or during the 14th century. By the time that Thomas Cromwell had ordered the establishment of parish records during the reign of Henry VIII, there were many Whites living in and around Banbury in north Oxfordshire.
In fact modern scientific methods mean that we can now trace the White family ancestors a lot further back than the middle ages. In 2012 the Y chromosome signature of a maternal first cousin of mine who was born in 1960, was examined by the Oxford Ancestors unit which indicated that there was a high probability that his male genetic ancestors could be identified as originating with a prehistoric male ancestor whom they named "Oisin" (pronounced Osheen) who lived about 33000 BC, sheltering from the Ice Age in western Europe, particularly in the area of northern Spain around The Basque Country, with his descendants traveling along the Iberian and French coasts before crossing the sea to settle in coastal England. 64% of modern English men are descended from this clan. Therefore the Whites' ancestors were really the first Englishmen once the last ice age had ended about 7000 BC. Furthermore as the clan of Oisin appears to be descended from an older clan, that of "Seth", which lived in the middle east about 50000 BC, we can trace the origin of the White family right back to the old stone age. Because the Y chromosome is directly inherited from father to son, all males in the family named White, alive or deceased, belong to the clan of Oisin and, even further back, to the clan of Seth
When I first began to research the origin of my ancestors I found a family tree published on one of the internet websites which suggested that they were descended from a family by that name which originated in the town of Bloxham, three miles southwest of Banbury, but I have not yet seen definite evidence to support that theory. I contacted the publisher of that family tree to ask about any evidence that he had access to which confirmed the link between the Bloxham and Shotteswell Whites but he has not responded to my communication. It may well be that an origin in Bloxham is indeed correct but there is also evidence to the contrary and it is difficult to reconcile the various strands of information that I have obtained so far. However if we do indeed accept the Bloxham origin for the present then our ancestors can be traced back to the mid-16th century in parish records and earlier in other documents including, in one case, as far back as the late 14th century. We can definitely trace our ancestors back to the beginning of the 18th century when an individual called Thomas White was living in the small south Warwickshire village of Shotswell (as it was then spelt) according to the parish records. From 1699 to 1739 there are probably three different Thomas Whites recorded in the sadly incomplete Shotswell parish records and before 1699 there are only one or two references in the records to suggest that the Whites were a well established family in Shotswell. So if they did not originate in Shotswell itself, where was their original home?
The Whites in Bloxham
Accepting, for the moment at least, that Bloxham is indeed the original home of our branch of the White family then we find that the earliest identifiable name to be recorded in official documents is that of Willelmus Whit, one of the three citizens of Bloxham who paid the poll tax introduced by King Richard II in 1377 (recorded at Oxford on Friday 3 April 1377, the other Bloxham citizens being Thomas Gardener and Robert Hanecok). Willelmus - William - also appears in the records of the 1379 poll tax as Willelmus Whyte of the "Ville de Bloxham" who paid 6d. One further poll tax was levied in 1381 but I have not found any record of William on that occasion and this may be because much of the Bloxham record for that year is now unreadable. The poll taxes eventually resulted in The Peasants' Revolt. This record confirms that there was a member of the White family living in Bloxham as early as 1377 and there are no other "Whites" recorded in the poll tax records so it may not be unreasonable to extrapolate that this Willelmus Whit is a direct ancestor of the family which appears in the earliest Bloxham parish records from the mid-sixteenth century.
Another document to name later Whites in Bloxham is "The Probate Records Of The Courts Of The Bishop And Archbishop Of Oxford 1536 - 1732". This fills in some of the gap between the Poll Tax records and the first parish records. Probate is recorded for the following Whites of Bloxham:- Thomas Whyte (1546), John Whyte (1578), Thomas Whighte, husbandman (a tenant farmer) (1606), William Whighte Senior yeoman (a farmer who owned the land he farmed) (1611), Anne Whighte widow (1623), a second Anne Whighte widow (1631), William White Junior (1641), Thomas White gentleman (1672) and Thomas White yeoman (1706). It is reasonable to deduce that Thomas Whighte (husbandman) was the younger brother of William Whighte yeoman and that the latter inherited his land from their father John Whyte and he, in turn, was the son of Thomas Whyte. We may also think that one of the Annes was the widow of William Whighte and therefore the mother of the first William White to be mentioned in the parish records (see below) and the other, perhaps, of his brother,Thomas.
The first "White" to be recorded in the Bloxham parish records was William White who was probably born about 1588. Bloxham itself is a town whose name originated as the Old English Blocc's Ham meaning the home of Blocc, and dated from the 6th century when a Saxon settlement was built on the banks of a tributary of the Sor Brook. It is mentioned in The Domesday Book as the settlement of Blochesham and was first recorded as Bloxham in 1316. The parish's records allude to two William Whites in the early seventeenth century:- William Senior who was recorded as the father of Samuel who was baptised in the parish church of St. Mary on 5 September 1630 and William Junior who was the father of another William who was baptised on 10 October 1630 and may be the William White Junior whose will went to probate in 1641 - interestingly his last child was born in 1639 (see below). The terminology used in the parish records suggests that William Junior was the son of William Senior and we can calculate from this that William Junior was born about 1610. Charles White, son of Thomas, was baptised at St. Mary's Church on 6 November 1631 and I suggest that Thomas was a brother of William Junior. We may therefore conclude that William Senior had at least three sons, Thomas, William Junior and Samuel the latter being born some time after his older siblings.
The records subsequently mention further baptisms of children of William White but do not apply the qualification of Junior or Senior to the father of the child and it is probably reasonable to assume that they are all the offspring of William Junior. These children are Thomas, baptised on 13 November 1631, Edmund ( 30 October 1634) and Edward who was baptised on 24 February 1638. Baptisms for Thomas' children are also recorded:- Anne (12 January 1633), Thomas (10 April 1636) and Mary (4 August 1639). Some of the children did not live long, the parish records mention the funerals of William's son, Edward, as being held on 5 March 1635 - clearly an earlier born child whose baptismal record is not to be found, Fulke, buried on 19 March 1636, baptismal record likewise not found and Benjamin, son of William, buried on 5 February 1638, again baptismal records not found.
The funeral of a William White is recorded as taking place on 26 April 1662. Presumably this was the funeral of William White Senior and on 14 October 1674 there was recorded the funeral of Joan White, widow, who was William Senior's long-lived widow. Joan is identified in a document of 1664 as the widow of William White (in the document, which is in Latin, she is called Joanna in) and the document relates to her tenancy of land of Lord Saye and Sele. Similar later documents also identify Joan and her son William as well as a daughter Hanna, a daughter not identified in the parish records. As the document was in Latin, her name may actually have been Anne, Hanna being the Latinised form. Further documents of dealings with Lord Saye and Sele show that Hanna or Ann married a local farmer called Stephen Gascoigne and that they had at least 2 sons who continued to inherit the tenancy of the same pieces of land from Lord Saye and Sele, William and Thomas. We know from these documents that Hanna was a spinster in 1664 but had married Stephen Gascoigne by 1674. The land in question was a piece north of Bloxham called Butt Acre described as being near the Milton Way. Thomas was granted the tenancy in 1698 in a document in which he is described as Thomas Gascoigne Senior (so presumably he had a son who was also named Thomas) and we learn that this assumption of the tenancy occurred as a result of the death of Hanna, who had been predeceased by her husband, Stephen.
The funeral of William Junior's son, William, is probably that recorded on 6 March 1696 and the funeral of a Thomas White was held on 3 January 1672, probably William Junior's brother and surely the "Thomas White gentleman" whose will went to probate in 1672 as mentioned above. Finally, we may mention the funeral of Samuel White, the presumed third and youngest brother, which took place on 3 May 1667 and William Junior's daughter, Anne, is recorded as marrying William Willits at St. Mary's Church on 22 September 1672.
I deduce, as mentioned above, that "William Whighte Senior yeoman" of the probate records of 1611 was the father of "William White Senior" of the parish records (obviously the term "Senior" passes on to the son down the generations once the father has died) and we can therefore trace the Whites back in a direct line to Thomas Whyte (probate recorded 1546 and estimated birth therefore about 1490). That Thomas Whyte was then a direct descendant of Willelmus Whit with the names of 3 or 4 generations between the two being unknown so far.
There is no mention of the White family in the Bloxham parish records from 1639 until 1661 and this because during the English Civil War of 1642 to 1650, under the rule of The Commonwealth and The Protectorate until the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, parliamentary officials kept their own records and the parish records were not used. This does, however, leave a gap where members of the family might otherwise have made an appearance in the parish records.
William Junior's son, Edward, is now of prime interest to us. He married Margrit Measey at St. Mary's Church on 1 February 1664 (recorded as a variant spelling of White - "Edward Whit"). The baptisms of several of their children were recorded subsequently:- "Anne daughter of Edward" was baptised on 22 April 1666, the year of the Great Fire Of London, George was baptised on 19 May 1667, Thomas on 13 August 1668, John on 2 December 1670 and Elizabeth on 22 June 1673. Sadly, burials of Edward's children are also recorded about that time:- Anne on 11 August 1667, William (baptism record not found) on 14 May 1675 and Elizabeth on 17 July 1675. Of Edward's children, the most important to us is John.
The first event mentioned in the parish records after the reappearance of the Whites in those documents is the baptism of Samuel, son of Thomas White, on 25 October 1661. This Thomas is, presumably, the brother of Edward (born 1636) and he may have been born when the parish records were not being kept during the period of parliamentary rule. One other of Thomas' children is recorded - Dorothy, baptised on 4 July 1668. Edward's elder brother, William, also makes an appearance in the records as the father of Anne who was baptised on 2 July 1665.
The Family of John White
If we return to John White, we find that he married Alice Baker (or Parker) at St. Mary's Church on 30 December 1698 after the reading of banns. Previously recorded is the wedding of Thomas White, presumably the Thomas who was John's brother, to Anne Hiorns (the surname is difficult to read in the records) on 19 October 1696, also after the reading of banns. The baptism of John and Alice's first child, Elizabeth, was recorded on 8 November 1699, and subsequently we find further children mentioned:- Edward who was baptised on 9 March 1701, John, baptised on 3 November 1702, another John on 29 October 1704, Thomas on 30 October 1709 and Joseph on 4 April 1712. Burials that took place at this time of John's children that can be found in the records are that of an earlier born Thomas(baptismal record not found) on 19 November 1706 and of 11 month old Joseph on 5 May 1713. Other significant burials as evidenced in the parish records during this period include that of Margaret White, widow, on 12 April 1705, presumably Edward White's wife, an important ancestor of ours, and that of Edward himself, who had been buried on 16 May 1694, dying at the age of 56.
A very notable feature of the Bloxham records from 1703 and for a few years afterwards is that the nature of the employment of the fathers of the children undergoing baptism was included in the baptism record. Of interest to us is the reference to the birth of John, son of John White in 1704 where the father is described as a Tinker which was a title meaning an itinerant mender of metal household utensils. The numerous records of John's children's baptisms in Bloxham suggest that John certainly lived in Bloxham and that the extent of his itinerance was limited to the surrounding villages of Banburyshire and that his work probably did not take him further afield. His "beat" may well have included regular visits to Shotteswell. John White died in 1745 and his funeral took place at St. Mary's Church on 16 June 1745 when he was aged about 75 years. Alice, his wife, had died 13 years before and been buried on 16 July 1732.
John White Junior, John's son, probably appears in the Bloxham parish records when he married Frances Hopkins (a variant spelling of "Witt" is used in the records) and his younger brother, Thomas, married Elizabeth Bayliss on 18 October 1732. A number of baptisms are recorded for John's children:- George (27 August 1732), John (30 November 1635), James (22 January 1738) and Ann (2 March 1740). There are no baptisms recorded in the Bloxham parish records to suggest that Thomas White was the father of any children born in the town and this would be highly compatible with the opinion that he and his new wife, Elizabeth, moved elsewhere after their marriage and that their new home could easily have been in Shotteswell. Certainly, it is highly likely that he would have been familiar with the village since his father probably visited it regularly in the course of his work and, in addition, young Thomas probably had relatives already living there as evidenced by the parish records of the church of St. Laurence in Shotteswell. As mentioned on page 1, there are three Thomas Whites noted in the Shotteswell records in the early eighteenth century, two predating the likely arrival of Thomas and Elizabeth from Shotteswell after 1732.
There is very little to suggest that the Whites were present in numbers in Shotteswell prior to the beginning of the 18th century. From time to time a few people with the surname do appear in the parish record but in insufficient numbers to suggest that they were an established family there. This could be explained by the inadequacy of the Shotteswell records since those for baptisms from 1654 to 1812 and for weddings from 1566 to 1754 are mostly missing. The first White to be found in the Shotteswell records is George Whithe who married Maria Hodges(?) in St. Laurence Church in June 1578. Next we find that a woman called Issabella White was buried there on 6 May 1683. On 10 January 1704, the funeral of Sarah White, the daughter of Edward and Mary White, was conducted in St. Laurence Church and that of her sister, Martha, had previously taken place there on 29 October 1701.
A number of baptisms of the children of Thomas and Elizabeth White were recorded from 1699, the first being that of their daughter, Elizabeth, on 17 March 1699. This was followed by the baptism of Richard on 26 July 1702 (and buried there in April 1703), Thomas (26 May 1704), Jane in 1708, Robert on 6 February 1710 (buried in ?June 1711), and John on 16 August 1713. Thomas Senior probably died in 1753, being buried on 13 April 1753, his wife having died in 1715 and having been buried on 2 June 1715.
The marriage of a Thomas White (presumably the Thomas born in 1704) to Ann Slow, "Both of Shotteswell" took place at St. Laurence Church on 27 December 1724 and their children's baptisms are recorded:- John (15 January 1726), James (16 March 1728 - he died in 1782 and his funeral is recorded as "James White widower buried 12 November 1782"), William (27 December 1730), Richard (28 November 1731), Mary (13 May 1733), Elizabeth (30 September 1740), Hester (8 June 1742) and a daughter called Ann whose baptism record has not been found. These names are of great interest because they are all to be found used repetitively and almost to the exclusion of any other Christian names, among our later ancestors and the use of the names by Thomas and Elizabeth White suggests that these Whites are likely to be closely related to Thomas and Elizabeth White who originated in Bloxham. I suspect that the Thomas White recorded as the father at Elizabeth's baptism in 1699 was in fact the uncle of Thomas White who had married Elizabeth Bayliss - that is - the brother of John White and that the Thomas who married Anne Slow was therefore the first cousin of our direct ancestor who therefore appears to have followed his uncle and family in moving from Bloxham to Shotteswell just over 30 years after his uncle had become established in the village. There is a family history of Conrad Frank Dickerson to be found on the internet which records Thomas White which states that he was "born about 1676 in Shotteswell". Since there is no record of his baptism in the St. Laurence parish records with no accurate date given in the piece by Dickerson, I can only conclude that the date and place of Thomas White's birth is speculative and does nothing to confirm that Thomas had been born in Shotteswell rather than Bloxham. Additionally, it identifies Thomas' wife as Elizabeth Adams who had been born in Welton, Northamptonshire and christened there on 22 January 1686 with their marriage taking place at Daventry on 2 January 1701 but this information is problematical since the wedding postdates the birth and christening of Thomas and Elizabeth's first child, Elizabeth, at Shotteswell in 1699.
Thomas and Elizabeth (Bayliss) appear in the Shotteswell parish records as the parents of Thomas White who was baptised on 26 February 1737 and John White who was baptised on 5 June 1743, both in St. Laurence Church. Presumably the latter is the "John White farmer" whose funeral took place on 8 April 1823 when he had reached the age of 80 years as there are no other John Whites of the correct age or even the correct generation to be possibly identified as the octogenarian. These are Thomas and Elizabeth's only appearance as parents of a baptised child in the Shotteswell parish records and would be consistent with their arrival in the village after a move from Bloxham somewhere between their marriage in Bloxham in 1732 and their eldest son's baptism in 1737 in Shotteswell. It does not appear that the couple had any children while living in Bloxham since there are no records of any baptisms of children of a Thomas White between 1732 and 1737.