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Whitebread and Whitbread


About the study

My name is Steven Whitebread. Welcome to my One-Name Study Profile Page. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on your Whitbread/Whitebread ancestry.
The Whit(e)bread One-Name study offers help to anyone searching for their Whit(e)bread ancestors. The study grew out of an attempt to trace my own family history, which I started in April 1982. I rapidly came to a brick wall in late 18th century Southfleet in Kent, UK, where my 3 x great-grandfather Thomas Whitebread claimed to have been born around 1787. I found several brothers born from 1789, but no Thomas, so I began to spread the net wider and wider. I soon discovered that some of Thomas'€™ brothers later dropped the 'e' and became Whitbreads, so from then on I collected all instances of Whitebread and Whitbread (also Wheatbread). I am still searching for my elusive 18th century ancestors (I have since discovered that my Thomas was born in nearby Otford), but thanks to the large database I have built, I can offer help to anyone researching the name, worldwide. I have constructed numerous family trees from this data, which are continually being added to. The name was registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 1999.
A Whitebread and Whitbread One-Name Study group has been started on GenealogyWise. You can download family trees of more than 50 families from the site. Please join and take part in the discussions there.

Variant names

The registered variants of the name, apart from Whitbread and Whitebread, are Whitbred, Whitebred and Wheatbread. Pre-1600 variants were many, and include Wytbred, Wytberd, Whitebrede, Hwytbred, Wythbred and Whetebred. In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries Whittbread was intermittently used by some families.

Name origin

The origin is most probably an occupational nickname. P.H. Reaney in The Dictionary of English Surnames (1958) gives three origins: i. OE hwit and bread  €˜'white bread'€™; ii. hwæte and bread '€˜wheat-bread'€™; iii. OE hwit and beard 'white beard'€™. Families with the latter origin appear to have died out by about 1700 and it is thought that they did not contribute to any of the later Whitbread or Whitebread lines. Between 1230 and 1375 there were English instances of the name Blauncpayn/Blaunkpeyn (i.e. the French version of Whitebread, now written Blancpain), but it is not known whether this name originated in England at a time when the French language was prominently used, or whether the first Blauncpayns came over from France, either with William The Conquerer or more likely later. It is very probable that English Blauncpayns changed their name to an English form during the 13th and 14th centuries and would have contributed to later Whitebread or Whitbread families. In the same way, a large family of Whitebreads in the United States originated from an 18th century immigrant from Germany with the name Weisbrod, as did another family which settled in Cornwall, England.

Historical occurrences of the name

The earliest occurrences of the name appear in the 13th century. A Robert Blauncpayn is mentioned in the Henry III patent rolls of 1230. The earliest Bedfordshire record is from 1254 and the family of Ion in Gravenhurst have been prominent landowners ever since. Samuel Whitbread the brewer came from this line.

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.

- Samuel Whitbread I (1720-1796)

- Samuel Whitbread II (1764-1815)

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 2 Bedfordshire County Council articles on The Whitbread Family, one for Cardington and the other for Southill. 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 Whitbread (c. 1578 - ?)

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.

- Ven. Thomas Whitebread (c. 1618 - 1679)

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 and Henry Wright of White Notley, Essex

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.

Name frequency

In the index of the 1881 census produced by the Church of Latter Day Saints, there are 1,208 Whitbreads (84%), 214 Whitebreads (15%) and 15 Wheatbreads (1%).

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 (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

In the 16th century the name was largely concentrated in Sussex, London, Essex, Bedfordshire and Lincolnshire. Although it is not easy to distinguish the two major variants at that period, Whitebreads tended to occur south of the Thames, perhaps because of a difference in dialect.

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).


All the approx. 19,000 Whit(e)bread entries from the General Register Office Indexes for England & Wales (1837-2005) have been extracted. William, John and George are the most common male first names over this period, and Mary, Sarah and Elizabeth the most common female names, although a total of 951 different first names have been used. If anyone is interested, I can supply more Whit(e)bread statistics based on these data. Likewise, more than 5770 pre-1837 parish register entries have been found.

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.


A Y-DNA project has recently been started with Family Tree DNA. The main aim of the project is to discover which families are related and how many separate lineages there are. I believe the size of this project is ideal for a DNA study and if we have enough participants we should be able to draw some important conclusions. Any males bearing any variant of the name are welcome to participate (including the French, German or Swiss equivalents). To date, we have 8 participants, covering families originating from Kent, Essex, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Germany. Please contact me for more details or go to the corresponding project page on the ftdna website or the Whitebread/Whitbread DNA project web page. If you cannot, or you do not wish to participate you can still contribute by making a donation to the project'€™s general fund -€“ see