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About the study


My Wilthew One-Name Study grew out of my own family history research. In trying to identify and locate the family of my 3x Great Grandmother, Sabina Jane Wilthew, I built up enough information to identify several related family groups of Wilthew's from the parish registers in Durham and Northumberland in 2010.

Similarly, searching the census' identified a limited number of family groupings, whilst very regular mis-transcriptions hid others from my initial searches until this became a pet side-project.

After uncovering evidence or rumours of a number of 'interesting' Wilthew's in Northern England (murder, fraud on one side, and gainful employment on the other) London (Property portfolio's and victims of burglary), Central and Southern America (possible involvement in a coup, and an envoy of the Crown), the United States (murder and bravery on the field of battle) and Australia (entrepreneurship with mixed success), I registered the study in May 2011 with the intention of pursuing further.

Variant names

I am currently not pursuing any variants of the name, focussing primarily on the occurrences of the definitive 'Wilthew'.

However, once I feel it is appropriate and I have both the time and resources to expand the study, I may do so. Variants may include 'Wilthue', 'Walthew' and 'Waltho' (if someone else doesn't express an interest in doing so first).

The definitive 'Wilthew' appears predominantly in the North East of England throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, with at least one branch also around London in the early 19th century. Occurrences in Australia, New Zealand and the United States also appear to originate primarily from the North Eastern English branch.

The more common (and possible original) 'Walthew' variant appears from a cursory survey to be more common in North Western and the West Midlands of England.

Name origin

I'm currently working on the basis that in an original form it is of either French, early English or early Scandinavian origin.

'Bapt. 'the son of Waldeve.' ... Wilthew, a surname found in Newcastle and the neighbourhood, must be looked upon as an unquestionable descendant of some Walthew or Waldew. No doubt an abbreviation, or nick. of Waldeve or Waltheof, an early English personal name. This was earlier corrupted to Waldew ... as Waltho or Waldie ... almost all the instances are confined to Northern England.'
Bardsley, C. W. E. (1996) 'A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames' Rev. Edn. Baltimore MA:

'... of pre-7th century Scandinavian origins, and derives from the popular Old Norse name 'Valthiofr'. This was made up of the elements 'val', meaning battle, and 'thiofr', to snatch, to give a translation of 'one who snatched victory'.'
Charlie Brook (2006) The Internet Surname Database (online) Available from: (accessed 17 May 2011).

In the form 'Wilthew', there are a significantly small number of occurences of the name, nearly all those currently identified originating in North East England or London in the mid- to late 18th century.

History of the name

None so far identified of particular renown.

Charles (Carlos) Wilthew: born in 1800, Islington, London, England. English Aide-de-camp for Francisco de Paula Santander (Vice President of what is now Colombia at the time) from 1823 until 1828. Carlos Wilthew was listed as one of the alleged conspirators against Dictator Simon Bolivar following an assassination attempt on 25 September 1828, for which he was exiled from Colombia. He later served as Queen's Consul in Acapulco, Mexico (1852-56), Islay, Peru (1856-68) and Panama, Bolivia (1868-). He died in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1887.


John Shaftoe Wilthew: Born in Whickham, County Durham 1803. Was executed for the murder of his wife (Susannah Bell, nee Charlton) and attempted suicide in 1859 in front of their children. His son Charlton emigrated to the United States. In 1880 he also hit the headlines in Pennsylvania, after shooting his wife and himself in front of their daughter.

Name frequency

From the index of the 1881 census produced by the Church of Latter Day Saints, there were 9 Wilthews recorded in that census. However, after some wider searching and some targeted browsing of the original census schedules, I have so far identified and located a further 11 Wilthews and have identified a further 24-40 Wilthews I suspect should have appeared.

The major problem encountered is the wide range of deviant occurrences of the surname encountered in the census indexes (Willthew, Withew, Witthew, Wither, Wilthers, Wiltheir, Wilthen, Wilthens, Wilthan, Wiltham, Willer, Whitten, Walthew, Welthews, Weethew, Arlthew).

According to an ONS database there are some 77 Wilthews as of September 2002. This makes it the 39,021st most common name in England and Wales.

Distribution of the name

In the 1881 census all except one entry so far identified occurs in the counties of Northumberland and Durham. One entry also appears in Wales - although this is in fact a descendent of a branch from the parish of Whickham in County Durham.

There are also several occurrences in of the name in the United States and Australia/New Zealand at and around this same time - again, most appear to be descendents of Wilthew's from North Eastern England.

There also appears to be some occurences in Latin America and the Carribean. I have found one connection to this region (see Carlos Wilthew) above.


All of the Wilthew Birth, Marriage and Death entries from the General Register Offices for England & Wales (1837-2006) and Scotland (since 1855) have been recorded (199 births, 139 marriages and 146 deaths as of January 2013). These include some deviants I have been able to confirm as being 'Wilthew' from other sources (Witthew, Wilthen). Of these, I have copies of, or seen, primary sources for 20+ entries from the indexes.

I have so far identified:

  • 180+ references from the UK census' from 1841 to 1911 (not yet 1911 for Scotland)
  • 20+ wills / grants of probate since 1800 in England and Wales.
  • 118 baptisms, 87 marriages and 77 burials (1696-1909) from anglican and non-conformist parish registers and bishop's transcripts in England and Wales and Scotland, including 35+ non-Wilthew baptisms (1788-1840) where the mother's maiden name was Wilthew. These have been extracted from IGI, Various online parish indexes, Printed parish indexes and original parish registers viewed online and at the Northumberland and London Metropolitan Archives.

For other entries from overseas (United States, Australia and New Zealand), including:

  • 20+ details of births, marriages and deaths from Australia
  • 60+ details of births, marriages, divorces and deaths from the United States
  • Various newspaper clippings from New Zealand

Other sources include entries and mentions in local, national and overseas newspapers, military records, insolvency and court reports, bastard indemnity records, confirmation registers, letters and a deed of enfranchisement.

I am currently working on collating this data in accessible formats, as well as continuing to collect additional data and identify individual family groups and lines.

I am happy to both provide, and receive, information if you contact me via the Guild at the email address below.


Retained study profile

This study is no longer registered with the Guild, but this profile page has been retained at the member's request. Please note that neither officers nor members of the Guild are able to answer any questions about this study.