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About the study
Like many one-name studies, it grew out of an attempt to trace my own surname. I decided to find the origins of my husband's family after a statement by my father-in-law that I would never be able to find out anything about the surname as no-one had ever managed it before!
Suggested origins include:
* WIFFEN (& variants Whiffen & Whiffin): English: of uncertain origin, possibly a habitation name from an unidentified place named with the Old English elements 'hwit' (white, i.e. phosphorescent) + 'fen' (marsh*) Patrick Hanks & Flavia Hodges, in 'A Dictionary of Surnames' Oxford University Press, Oxford. 1988
(*The Oxford English Dictionary gives FEN: Low land covered wholly or partially with shallow water, or subject to frequent inundations;- a marsh)
Patrick Hanks is the lead researcher for the project 'Family Names of the UK' (FaNUK) based at the University West of England, Bristol.
* WIFFIN: Anglo Saxon WIF, WIFARE: a personal name; Dutch WIJVERING; a family local name: Wifre, a weaver. Rev. H Barber, 'British Family Names, their origin and meaning' Elliot Stock, London. 1894
* WIJVERING - from Dutch immigrants who came to England to help drain the Fens from the 1630's. But the name Whiffen (etc.) predates this, occurring frequently back into the 16th century and also noted back to the 13th century.
* WHIFFING - a means of catching mackerel with a handline, a west country term which the Oxford English Dictionary can only date back to the 1830's
Historical occurrences of the name
*Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen (1792-1836)* - Quaker, author, and librarian for the 6th Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey
*Benjamin Barron Wiffen (1794-1867)* - Quaker, biographer and translator of early Spanish writers
*Mrs. Thomas Whiffen (1845-1936)* - Actress, maiden name Blanche Galton
*Thomas Whiffen (1819-1904)* - Owner of a chemical Company which was eventually acquired by Fison's in 1947
*Captain Thomas William Whiffen (1878-1922)* - Explorer, and author of 'Northwest Amazon: notes of some months spent among cannibal tribes'
There are also some places named after Whiffen's:
*Whiffin Spit* -Sooke Harbour, British Columbia, Canada
*Whiffen's Avenue*, Chatham, Kent, UK
Surname Count Ranking
WHIFFEN 657 9185
WHIFFIN 610 9714
WHIFFING 80 38094
WIFFEN 1151 5919
WIFFIN 111 31017
According to the 1841 census for England and Wales, these were the figures 160 years earlier, when the total population was approximately 15.91 million people. This gives a frequency of 1 in 14,691 or 0.007% of the population
Distribution of the name
The one-name study also includes numerous entries from Parish Registers, from overseas records and from other sources.
Do have a look at the Whiffen DNA Project pages: