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An excerpt from archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, German

The bountiful region surrounding the Rhine river is the birthplace of the name Whitman. A single name was, at one time, all that people needed. However, increasing ease of travel and the burgeoning populations forced people to adopt a hereditary surname to set themselves apart from others. A common form of surname created in the Rhineland was the local name. Originally denoting the proprietorship of the village or estate, the German preposition von, which means from or of, was used with local names. The surname Whitman was given to someone who lived in the area that was referred to as widem which was originally derived from the German word denoting church property. Thus the estates or farms lived in by the original bearers of the surname were owned by the church. In early times the Church was the largest landowner in Europe. Many farmers and peasants alike lived on land that was considered church property.


The surname Whitman was first found in the Palatinate in the Rhineland valley, where the name was anciently associated with the tribal conflicts of the area. They declared allegiances to many nobles and princes of early history, lending their influence in struggles for power and status within the region. They branched into many houses, and many leaders sought their support in their search for power.

In the medieval era, many different cultural groups lived in the German states. There are thus many regional variations of German surnames from that era. Westphalians spoke Low German, which is similar to modern Dutch. Many German names carry suffixes that identify where they came from. Others have phrases attached that identify something about the original bearer. Other variations in German names resulted from the fact that medieval scribes worked without the aid of any spelling rules. The spelling variations of the name Whitman include Widmann, Widman, Widemann, Wideman, Witmann, Witman, Wittmann, Wittman, Whitman and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Whitman research. Another 398 words (28 lines of text) covering the years 1601, 1638, 1639, 1642, 1646, 1667, 1675, 1687, 1712, 1719, 1724, 1730, and 1870 are included under the topic Early Whitman History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Another 29 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Whitman Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


The great European flow of migration to North America, which began in the middle of the 17th century and continued into the 20th century, was particularly attractive to those from the Rhineland who wished to escape either poverty or religious persecution. Many of those who left the Rhineland to seek their fortunes in the prosperous and free New World settled in the major urban centers of the United States and Canada. In the United States, the settlers from the Rhineland passed through immigration centers like that of Ellis Island, most of them moving on to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, California, and New York. In Canada, the majority of Rhinelanders settled in Ontario and the prairie provinces. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many important settlers to North America bearing the name Whitman, or one of its variants above:

Whitman Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Sara Whitman, aged 25, arrived in New England in 1635
  • Zacha Whitman, aged 2, arrived in New England in 1635
  • Zacharia Whitman, aged 40, landed in New England in 1635
  • Thomas Whitman, who arrived in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1653
  • Valentine Whitman, who landed in New England in 1654
  • ...

Whitman Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Maria Phillis Whitman, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1729
  • Mathies Whitman, aged 56, landed in Pennsylvania in 1733
  • Johanes Whitman, aged 15, landed in Pennsylvania in 1733
  • Mara Catrana Whitman, aged 38, landed in Pennsylvania in 1733
  • George Whitman, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1760

Whitman Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Michael Whitman, who arrived in Ohio in 1850
  • Philip Whitman, aged 29, arrived in Alabama in 1855
  • Frank Whitman, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1861

Whitman Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • John Whitman, who arrived in Anapolis (Annapolis), Nova Scotia in 1760
  • Noah Whitman, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1760
  • Mr. George Whitman U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784

Whitman Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Frederick Whitman, aged 17, a printer, arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "Africaine" in 1836

Whitman Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • George Whitman landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1841

  • John Russell Whitman (1944-2015), American businessman and investment banker, First Gentleman of New Jersey (1994-2001)
  • Sarah Helen Power Whitman (1803-1878), American poet, essayist, spiritualist and romantic interest of Edgar Allan Poe
  • Sarah de St. Prix Wyman Whitman (1842-1904), American artist and illustrator, stained glass designer, and author
  • Kari Kennell Whitman (b. 1964), American model and actress
  • Frank Perkins Whitman (1853-1919), American physicist and professor of physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1880-1886)
  • George Whitman (1913-2011), American proprietor of the popular tourist attraction the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris
  • Christine "Christie" Todd Whitman (b. 1946), American Republican politician, 9th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (2001-2003), 50th Governor of New Jersey (1994-2001)
  • Brian David Whitman (b. 1972), American talk radio host, voice impressionist and comedian
  • Walter "Walt" Whitman (1819-1892), American poet, journalist and essayist, best known for his "Leaves of Grass"
  • Stuart Maxwell Whitman (b. 1928), American Academy Award nominated actor, known for Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines... (1965), The Comancheros (1961) and Cimarron Strip (1967)
  • ...

Whitman Historic Events

HMS Prince of Wales

  • Mr. George Frederick Whitman, British Marine, who sailed in to battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking

  • The History of Alfred & Sarah Andrews Whitman: Their Ancestors & Descendants by Herbert S. Whitman.

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    Other References

    1. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
    2. Rupp, Daniel L. A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and Other Immigrants to Pennsylvania from 1727 to 1776. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2000. Print. (ISBN 978-0806303024).
    3. Karlsruhe. Badisches Generallandesarchiv Baden Emigration lists 1866-1911. Salt Lake City: Microfilm of Card Index by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Print.
    4. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
    5. Kneschke, Dr. Ernest Heinrich. Neues allgemeines Deutsches Adels-Lexicon 9 Volumes New General German Aristocracy Lexicon. Leipzig: Friedrich Voigt, 1859. Print.
    6. Steed, Henry Wickham . The Hapsburg Monarchy. London: Constable and Company, 1919. Print.
    7. Bentley, Elizabeth P. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of New York 1820-1829. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1999. Print.
    8. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
    9. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
    10. Göbel, Otto. Niederdeutsche Familiennamen der Gegenwart Wolfshagen-Schäbentz. Franz: Westphal, 1936. Print.
    11. ...

    The Whitman Family Crest was acquired from the archives. The Whitman Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

    This page was last modified on 14 June 2016 at 11:07.

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