Witherspoon History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Witherspoon name date back to the kingdom of Dalriada in ancient Scotland. Witherspoon was a name for someone who lived in various places throughout Scotland. It may have been a habitation name from a now lost place name, thought to come from the Old English terms wether, which means "sheep," and "spong," or from spang, which means "a narrow strip of land." [1] Habitation names form a broad category of surnames that were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads.

Early Origins of the Witherspoon family

The surname Witherspoon was first found in Renfrewshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Rinn Friù), a historic county of Scotland, today encompassing the Council Areas of Renfrew, East Renfrewshire, and Iverclyde, in the Strathclyde region of southwestern Scotland.

The first record of the family was found c. 1290 when Roger Wythirspon, clerk, attested a grant by James the High Steward of lands in Renfrew. [1]

The family acquired business interests in Glasgow, and also were tenants of the Cupar Angus Abbey.

In 1496, a payment was thus noted: "Widderspune the foulare that tald talis and brocht foulis to the king." Later, John Wyddirspwn was tenant of Dalbeth in 1518 and a tenant of Cupar-Angus Abbey, c. 1500, was named Wychthirspone. [1]

Further to the south in England, the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 listed Adam Wytherpyn and Adam Wyerpin in Norfolk. Later in 1379, the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls listed Johannes Withspone and Willelmus Wythspone. The reference The History of Norfolk notes John Wetherpyn was vicar of Thrickby, Norfolk in 1419. [2] Interestingly, the last author comments: "I can make nothing out of this surname, and leave it to the consideration of more enlightened students. I can furnish them with materials, but that is all. My Yorkshire references clearly represent some of its ancestors." [2] We can only presume that this learned gentleman had not considered Yorkshire's close proximity to Scotland and a presumable migration from there.

Early History of the Witherspoon family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Witherspoon research. Another 130 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1548, 1521, 1546, 1547, 1643, 1646, 1722, 1794, 1768, 1850, 1921 and 1894 are included under the topic Early Witherspoon History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Witherspoon Spelling Variations

Spelling in the medieval era was a highly imprecise process. Translation, particularly from Gaelic to English, was little better. For these reasons, early Scottish names are rife with spelling variations. In various documents Witherspoon has been spelled Wotherspoon, Witherspoon, Weatherspoon, Wetherspoon and many more.

Early Notables of the Witherspoon family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Witherspoon Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Witherspoon migration to the United States +

Ancestors of many of the Dalriadan families who crossed the Atlantic still live along the east coast of the United States and Canada. Some Scottish settlers arrived in Canada during the American War of Independence as United Empire Loyalists, while others stayed south to fight for a new nation. The descendants of Scottish settlers in both countries began to rediscover their heritage in the 19th and 20th centuries through Clan societies and highland games. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families has revealed a number of immigrants bearing the name Witherspoon or a variant listed above:

Witherspoon Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Girzel Witherspoon, who arrived in Perth Amboy, NJ in 1685 [3]
Witherspoon Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John Witherspoon, who landed in South Carolina in 1734 [3]
  • David Witherspoon, who arrived in America in 1768 [3]
Witherspoon Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Eliza Witherspoon, who landed in America in 1804 [3]
  • Elizabeth, Henry, James, John, and Margaret Witherspoon, all, who arrived in New England in 1804
  • Margaret Witherspoon, who arrived in America in 1804 [3]
  • Hen Witherspoon, who landed in America in 1804 [3]
  • James Witherspoon, who arrived in America in 1804 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Witherspoon migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Witherspoon Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • John Witherspoon, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Lady Lilford" in 1839 [4]

New Zealand Witherspoon migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Witherspoon Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Agnes Witherspoon, (b. 1852), aged 18, Irish general servant, from County Down travelling from London aboard the ship "Ramsey" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 17th June 1870 [5]
  • Miss Eliza Witherspoon, (b. 1854), aged 16, Irish general servant, from County Down travelling from London aboard the ship "Ramsey" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 17th June 1870 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Witherspoon (post 1700) +

  • Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon (b. 1976), American Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award winning actress and film producer
  • John Witherspoon (1723-1794), Scottish Presbyterian minister from Gifford, East Lothian, he and his family emigrated to New Jersey in 1768, signer of the American Declaration of Independence from New Jersey, President of the College of New Jersey (1768-1794), now Princeton University [6]
  • Ward Witherspoon, American politician, Mayor of Coffeyville, Kansas, 1967-68, 1969-71
  • Walter Pennington Witherspoon (b. 1939), American Republican politician, Presidential Elector for South Carolina, 1996, 2000; Delegate to Republican National Convention from South Carolina, 2004
  • Vivian Witherspoon, American Democrat politician, Member, Credentials Committee, Democratic National Convention, 1988
  • W. J. Witherspoon, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Wyoming, 1944 (member, Committee to Notify Presidential Nominee), 1952 (alternate); Member of Wyoming State House of Representatives, 1950
  • Samuel Andrew Witherspoon (1855-1915), American Democrat politician, U.S. Representative from Mississippi 5th District, 1911-15; Died in office 1915
  • Robert L. Witherspoon, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Missouri 1st District, 1976
  • Robert Witherspoon (1767-1837), American Democrat politician, Member of South Carolina State Legislature; U.S. Representative from South Carolina 3rd District, 1809-11
  • P. E. Witherspoon, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Michigan, 1888
  • ... (Another 23 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


The Witherspoon Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Deo juvante
Motto Translation: By God’s assistance.


  1. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  4. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) LADY LILFORD 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839LadyLilford.htm
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  6. ^ Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 5 Feb. 2019


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