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About the study
History of the name
Whit(e)breads do not seem to have been in the limelight very often, although most English people will immediately connect the name to the beer of the same name, or to one of the many events which have been sponsored by the Whitbread brewery, like the Round the World Yacht Race or the Whitbread book of the year award.
The first Samuel founded the famous brewery in London in 1742 and he was the Member of Parliament for Bedford 1768-90. His only son did not have the business acumen of his father, but carried on from his father as the (whig) MP for Bedford from 1790 and was considered a reformer. In 1806 he impeached Lord Melville for misuse of public money while Treasurer of the Navy. 1796-1806 he built the family home, Southill in Bedfordshire, where his descendants still live. On July 6th, 1815 Samuel cut his throat with a razor. See also Bedfordshire County Council article on The Whitbread Family. Samuel died 18 days after the Battle of Waterloo, not before it, as stated in this article. He was an admirer of Napoleon and judged him to be a 'glorious champion of liberty, equality and fraternity' and it is possible that he became depressed after Napoleon's downfall at Waterloo.
Alice was a 2nd great-grand aunt of Samuel Whitbread I. She is probably the most often cited member of any Whitbread on the Internet. She married Gerard (or Gerat) Spencer on 10th November 1600 at Upper Gravenhurst, Bedfordshire. Four of their sons emigrated to New England around 1631 and many present-day Americans can trace their ancestry back to these Spencers. Much of the information on Alice's ancestry given on the internet is incorrect. The information given by Torrey (1956) appears to be accurate and the relevant part of his work is correctly cited on the internet page of Steve Lawson. Note: The previous assumption that Alice's mother Eleanor was born Radcliffe or Hervey is incorrect. Her maiden name was in fact Hill as evidenced from the will of her brother, Thomas Hill, d. 1628 Flitton, Bedfordshire.
Thomas was the Jesuit Provincial Superior of England at the time of Charles II when Titus Oates falsely accused him and others of High Treason (Popish Plot). He was found guilty and was martyred (hung, drawn and quartered) at Tyburn. The plot was however soon uncovered and Thomas was beatified by the Pope. His feast day is June 20th. There is strong evidence that Thomas was a member of the Whit(e)bred family of Writtle and White Notley, Essex, many of whom were known catholic recusants. He was probably a nephew of the Agnes/Anna Whitebread mentioned below.
Anna Whitebread / Whitebred / Whytbred is another person who is mentioned in many online genealogies. In these accounts she is the daughter of Thomas Whitebread and she married Henry Wright of Upminster, Essex sometime before 1450 and their grandson Sir John Wright was first in the long line of Wrights who lived at Kelvedon Hall. The ancestry of Anna Whitebread is usually claimed to lead four generations back to John Whitebread born about 1325. This account is wrong and appears to stem from a misinterpretation of statements made in Philip Morant's 1768 book on the History of Essex. It is fairly clear that the Anna Whitebread he was referring to was one who married a Henry Wright of White Notley late in the 16th century (not the 15th). Such a person is fairly well documented. She was baptized Agnes Whytbred 1 Jul 1560 at White Notley. In several period documents she is also referred to as Ann or Anne and I have no doubt she is the person Morant was referring to. This Henry Wright has no known connection to the Kelvedon Hall family, so genealogies of that family should exclude any Whit(e)bread connections.
Numbers living today are not precisely known, but from the electoral register of 2002, the ratios appear to have changed strongly in favour of the Whitbreads (93:7:0.15). Some Whitebreads changed their name to Whitbread during the 19th century.
According to http://www.taliesin-arlein.net/names/search.php (the UK Office of National Statistics), in September 2002 there were 153 Whitebreads in England, Wales and the Isle of Man and it was ranked no. 25297, whereas there were 2502 Whitbreads, ranked 3044.
Distribution of the name
At the time of the 1881 census Whitbread families lived in 38 different counties, but were concentrated in London/Middlesex (22.3%), Essex (17%), Bedfordshire (13.1%), Northants (6.3%) and Wiltshire (5.6%). By 2002, they had spread to 53 counties with 13.4% in Essex, 11.7% in London/Middlesex and 6.1% in Hertfordshire and 5% in Bedfordshire. In 1881 Whitebread families were living in 19 counties and were most prominent in Kent (34.9%), London/Middlesex (21.4%), Wiltshire (7.9%), Surrey (7.1%) and Leicestershire (5.6%). By 2002, they had spread to just 22 counties, and were still mostly living in Kent (37.2%), now followed by Yorkshire (7.3%), Essex and Northants (6.6% each).
Outside England, some Kentish Whitebreads emigrated to Canada and South Africa (e.g. my own family), whereas some Whitbreads chose to emigrate to the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Most Whitebread families in the US descend from the German family mentioned above, whereby other families keeping their original name, Weisbrod, are now more abundant in the US than either Whitbread or Whitebread (1990 data).
I have copies of 203 wills, administrations and inventories from 1468 to 1858 and 127 of these have been fully transcribed. At least another 30 wills have yet to be acquired. All grants of probate since 1858 in England and Wales have also been recorded to 1941.
I have listings from all of the available censuses (UK, US and Canada). Many of the available indexes hopelessly muddle Whitebreads with Whiteheads (and sometimes Whithead for Whitbread), making a complete listing very difficult. However I am continually trying to improve on the transcriptions I have.
In addition to these, any occurrences of the name worldwide are actively sought (less intensively also of the non-English equivalents Blauncpain, Weisbrod and Wyssbrod) and family trees are being constructed using evidence from the available data (primary sources where possible). I have about 1700 bmd records from countries outside the UK, mostly post-1837.