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A Scottish Name

The ‘Whyte’ name spelt with a ‘y’ is almost exclusively Scottish in origin, as demonstrated in the UK survey of name distribution in 1881 and 1998.  As shown below the main areas of density in 1881 of Whyte’s were in Fife, Angus, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire.  


Contracts and deeds from the Forfar Cartularies show that the Whyte name was an ancient one particularly in Angus, and Forfar.



The Whyte family’s roots

  1. Could be from prehistoric ‘Atlantic Celts’, other ancient ‘Britons’, or newer arrivals - such as the many Pictish tribes, Danish Vikings, German Saxons, Norsemen, Gaelic/Irish Scots and others who came to Scotland over the years.  

  2. For purely geographical and historic reasons (i.e. Forfar, Angus) Pictish origins could be put forward for our family.  

  3. Based on the evidence of location, family surname and family crafts, Saxon origins - that could have come from England about the time of David I, circa 1150 - would also seem plausible.  

  4. It is also said (see Burke’s 1835 Genealogical History of the Commoners of Great Britain) that the Whytes of Scotland came originally from France and the noble family of Les Blancs, although there is zero evidence to support this.    


However, the 2007 and 2013 father-line DNA results make it very clear that the origins of our Whyte family were in fact Saxons from Northern Germany.  They were likely amongst the various Germanic peoples (Angles, Jutes & Saxons) who invaded England from the 5th century onwards, and who together profoundly altered the ethnic, cultural and linguistic balance of all of the Britain Isles.   

  • Our particular Saxon ancestors were concentrated in the area of modern Germany now known as Niedersachsen, Lower Saxony and their homeland encompassed the valleys of the rivers Elbe and Weser - one of the most fertile parts of the great Northern European Plain. 


Early local traces of the family name

Whether any of the following was an ancestor of our Whyte family is purely conjecture now.  However, if they were our ancestors, they were in a privileged minority in their day to own land, or have the standing to be a witness for Sassines (property transactions).

         1190    Adam the White of Forfar named the ‘Monks of Forfar’ as his heirs, if he should happen to die without issue. The date                                         assigned to this being 1189-1194. (Source: Cartulary of the Cistern Monastery, Cupar Angus)

         1236    Johannes Quhite, one of the canons of St Andrews, was elected Prior thereof on May 20th. He built the dormitory,                                               refectory and great hall there and died in 1258.

         1491    Robert Quhyt witness to Instrument of Sassine relating to lands in the Barony of Cortachy and Shire of Forfar.

         1590    William Quhyt witness to Charter relating to lands in Barony of Kethin, Lordship of Brechin and Shire of Forfar

         1619    James Whyt, Tailzcour elected Deacon of Tailors Incorporation Forfar, which carried with it a seat in the Town Council.

         1644    John Whyt, residing at Baldovan, witness to Inst. of Sassine relating to lands in Barony of Dundee to Viscount Dudhope. 

     1600/99   During this period over 100 births were recorded in the diocese of Brechin & diocese of St Andrews to fathers with the                                      name Quhyt or Whyt

Spelling of the Name

Quhyt, Quhytt, Quhit, Quheit, Quhet, Whyt, Whytt and Whyte are all spellings of the family name that can be found in local Angus documents of the 1500/1700’s.  The ‘White’ spelling was uncommon and mostly used/found in southern England.

As noted in William Quhyt’s pre-marriage contract, most people in the 1600’s could not read or write, and so used the services of a professional “Writer” (lawyer) for documents. The Writer spelt people’s names as best he could from what he heard from them. Sometimes different spellings can be found in the same document for the same person’s name.  Based on the documents researched.

  • Quhyt was probably a spelling mostly commonly used by our family before the 1650’s.  There were many Quhyt’s across Scotland at that time.   

  • From about 1650 to 1750 the family generally used the spelling Whyt. 

  • The spelling Whyte started to be used by our family in the early 1700s and has continued to this day.

  • As always, there are exceptions to these broad generalisations.

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