Archive:The Pedigree of Whitney, An Investigation

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Archives > Extracts > The Pedigree of Whitney, An Investigation

Butcher, Thomas Kennedy, "The Pedigree of Whitney, reproduced in The Whitney Family of Connecticut, by Stephen Whitney Phoenix: An Investigation," (Henley-on-Thames: 1987).

Allan Green wrote:

"Several of you have asked me to send you a copy of the report I found in a file of loose papers in a Whitney folder at the Library of the Society of Genealogists in London last summer. I came upon it tonight, actually while looking for something else, and decided to retype it and send it this way. Those of you who are interested can print and save it. Retyping was called for, I discovered, because there were no spaces following the punctuation marks.They went right on.Like this. I changed nothing else except putting quotes around titles that were underlined in the original (I underlined them, too, but that does not transfer as a part of an ASCII file). I know nothing about Mr. T. K. Butcher other than that he seems to know his way around the record sources and the repositories in which they may be found. I would be hard pressed to follow some of his trails, which seems to indicate that he is a fairly experienced English genealogical researcher. Take it for what it seems to be worth, especially in combination with the other material we have access to that also debunks Henry's English ancestry. I did spend three days trying to find him following the Berkhamsted St. Mary (Northchurch) trail and elsewhere in Hertfordshire, with no better result than Mr. Butcher.

"Enjoy - (sorry Mal, I'm constantly raining on your parade)


Woodman Cottage
Pishill Bottom

Dear Mr. Lawson Edwards

Referring back to my enquiry last September and your reply dated Sept. 5, concerning a Mrs. de Salis & a Whitney pedigree. I enclose a copy of my findings. As you will see, the lady, whoever she was, perpetrated an extremely cunning fraud, which apparently only recently aroused suspicion among American genealogists.

My wife (nee Whitney) is a direct descendant of Henry Whitney. It seems unlikely that Henry's origins will ever be discovered, but if at any time any evidence comes to your notice, I should be very grateful to hear of it. In the meantime, I hope my researches may be of use to others.

Yours Sincerely, T. K. Butcher


The Pedigree of Whitney, reproduced in The Whitney Family in Connecticut by Stephen Whitney Phoenix: an investigation.

I discovered this book, published in USA about 1880, in the Los Angeles Central Library (genealogical section) in December 1978. The pedigree was compiled by a Mrs. de Salis (nee Bainbridge) in London, 1875.

I started to check it from all available sources and soon found that the first 22 generations were taken from The Golden Grove, a collection of early Welsh pedigrees (I later obtained copies of the relevant pages). The compiler, an official of the College of Arms in the early eighteenth century, states that he had placed the Whitneys among the 'Adventurers and Advenae' (foreigners) of Radnorshire '... not but I think them British originally but as they soon turned their names according to the Norman method.' This of course accounts for the Welsh names at the beginning of the pedigree. After these legendary Welsh figures, and still with the Golden Grove, we find Sir Baldwinus de Whitney (Sir Baldwin lord of Whitney in the original) ap Baldwin lord of Talgarth etc. in the manner of Welsh pedigrees for 11 more generation. Then follow another Baldwin, Eustace and 4 more Baldwins, Hugh, yet another Baldwin, then Eustace and Robert.

There are several Whitney pedigrees in the County Record Office at Hereford, the oldest of which starts with Turstinus Flandrensis (Turstin the Fleming) a companion of William the Conqueror, who was granted land at Pencomb in Herefordshire, and is mentioned in various sources as the ancestor of the Whitneys of Whitney on Wye. His wife was Agnes de Merleberge, and their son Eustace took the name of de Whitney from his possessions (Duncumb and others: Collections of the History of the County of Hereford, 1804-1902). The Hereford pedigree is much shorter and reads, after Turstinus, Eustace, Baldwin, Eustace, Robert.

I have carried out a thorough examination of the de Salis pedigree and of the preface to the book, in which Phoenix cites numerous documents in support of it.

The last name in the pedigree is that of Henry Whitney, who is stated to have 'emigrated to New England.' His father's name is given as Thomas Whitney of Berkhamsted St. Mary or Northchurch, Hertfordshire, and his mother Mary Roach, d. of John Roach. The parish registers have Thomas Whitney marrying Dorothy Younge, 21 Sept., 1613, but no trace of any other marriage. Baptisms include Ambrose (d. in infancy), John 1615 and Mary 1620, but no Henry. The will of Thomas Whitney, said to have been proved at Hitchin, 4 May 1659, is not in the Herts. County Record Office. Phoenix states that it includes a gift to his son 'Henry Whitney (Whitnee) if he return home to his countrie.' It also mentions his widow Mary and sons Thomas, John and Robert (see above for parish records). I have also searched in the Public Record Office, London, for this will but it is not there either.

I have, however, a copy of the will of the son Thomas, of Berkhamsted and described as 'yeoman'. It mentions his daughter, though not by name, various grandchildren called Putnam and Hill, but not his supposed brother Henry. Incidentally, the correct date of this will is given by de Salis, but the testator is described as 'single.' The will of Anne Roberts, sister of this Thomas, dated 1655 and also said to have been proved at Hitchin, is not in the County Record Office. It is said to mention Henry, 'now living in New England.' Thus we have no evidence that Henry's origins are as stated by de Salis. Several members of the Connecticut Society of Genealogists have told me that the pedigree is bogus, but have failed to offer any evidence. An American book, History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield, has this comment on Henry: 'His English origin is unknown, the ancestry assigned to him in the splendid genealogy by Phoenix having proved false.'

The Herts. County Record Office has the will of Jane Whitney, Anne's mother, also of Berkhamsted, proved at Hitchin in 1627; it mentions her daughter Anne Rogers (not Roberts), son-in-law John Rogers and Jane's son Thomas. This is quoted correctly except for the surname Roberts for Rogers.

Still working back we have two wills, the first being that of Thomas Whitney the elder of Brook Walden (Saffron Walden, Essex). The date is 1602 and he is described as 'gent.': he mentions his wife Elizabeth, brother Thomas, and brother-in-law Thomas Stuteville - all correct in de Salis.

The same applies to the other, that of Thomas's brother Robert (1590) 'of Thetford in the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk, gent.', which mentions his wife Jane, his brothers Henry, Thomas the elder, Thomas the younger and George, sons and daughters and again Thomas Stuteville. (The Stutevilles were an ancient East Anglian family and the Whitneys would appear to be rather proud of the marriage.) Incidentally, Robert Whitney was Member of Parliament for Thetford in 1585.

The will of William Pardoe (1586) father of Penelope, said to be the wife of the above George Whitney, is not in the Essex C.R.O. That of Mary Whitney (1590) is there and is correctly summarised by Phoenix. Those mentioned are her son, son-in-law Thomas Stuteville, Esq., daughter and various other members of the family, all correctly set down by de Salis.

Missing documents are the Bill of Complaint of Humphrey Cob of Wimbish (1611) which is supposed to give supporting evidence: the will of Thomas Pardoe (1605); and that of Henry Pardoe (1619). However, we have several generations, the third and fourth from the bottom of the pedigree, proved to be substantially correct. The next, with Nicholas and Mary (see above) and their daughter Anne is authentic, as a Suffolk pedigree shows Thomas Stuteville as having married the d. of Nicholas Whitney of Walden, Essex. Still working backwards, we come to the will of Margery Aesden, alleged to have been proved at Lichfield, Apl. 3, 1578. This would have been a valuable piece of evidence, establishing 3 generations of Whitneys, but here again the County Record Office has no trace. The will of her Brother Thomas, sometime abbot of Dieulacres, near Leek in Staffordshire is in the PRO, London, and a fascinating historical document it is. It mentions his brother John and nephew Nicholas, niece Anne and Margery Aesden. John Whitney was Chamberlain of the Abbey and Nicholas was employed there in some subordinate capacity. They are both mentioned in various sources, including the Victoria County History of Staffordshire and The Dissolution of the Monasteries by F. A. Hibbert (Pitman, London, 1910). Yet another Whitney, Humphrey, was Bailiff of the manors owned by the Abbey in Cheshire. The monastery was dissolved by order of Henry VIII in 1538, and Thomas continued to live in the town of Leek, bequeathing his house there to Nicholas in his will, as well as his land. But was Nicholas Whitney of Walden, Essex the same person as Nicholas of Leek?? The numerous references to Nicholas son of John Whitney are all to do with Leek and the surrounding area, except that mentioned at the bottom of p.3 - and an entry in the Visitation of London, 1568, which reads: - 'Thomas Gardener of Safforne Walden in Essex m.-, the d. of Nychoolas Whitney of Walden and by her hathe...' Oddly enough, this is not mentioned by de Salis or Phoenix.

The 'evidence' that it was the same Nicholas is quoted by Phoenix as follows: a suit brought (27 Elizabeth - 1584/5) by 'Nicholas Whitney, of Brooke Walder, Co. Essex, alias dict., Nicholas Whitney, lately of Leke, Co. Stafford' for a messuage 'of which his father, John, died seized.' This is said to be in the Common Pleas, or De Banco Rolls in the PRO, London, but it is not to be found.

John Whitney, father of Nicholas of Leek, is mentioned in numerous documents relating to that place; his father, according to de Salis, was Robert. I have only been able to find one reference to a Robert Whitney of Staffordshire in the right period, and that is in Star Chamber proceedings of 1538, when he gave a surety of &163;200 (Proceedings of Staffs. Historical Society). Phoenix says he is mentioned in an Inquisitio post mortem Owen Parry, 1549, in the PRO, London, as 'his son-in-law deceased, Robert Whitney.' There is no trace of this document in the PRO.

Another inquisitio p.m. is said to be in the same place, but is also untraceable. It treats of the will of Richard Vaughn of Leckryd (Llechryd?) 1537 and is said to mention his daughter Constance, son-in-law Hugh Whitney and grandson Robert. These two documents would have established Robert Whitney as the husband of Mary Parry and the son of Hugh Whitney of the Hay and his wife Constance Vaughn. However, I am assured by Peter C. Bartrum, a leading authority on Welsh genealogies, that he knows of no source which gives Hugh of the Hay a wife or any children. Incidentally, the The Golden Grove pedigree, while not mentioning his wife's name, gives him a son Eustace, who m. Constance, d. of Sir Richard Vaughn, with several generations following. It seems that this was copied incorrectly from an older MS, in which Eustace was placed under Hugh but not joined.

To sum up, the number of 'missing documents' seems to me to prove beyond doubt that the de Salis pedigree is bogus. It was obviously very carefully prepared, with enough verifiable evidence to deceive anyone not prepared to undertake a thorough investigation. One curious aspect is that Phoenix states that all the relevant material is in his possession. However, in the days before photocopying, it would have been easy for Mrs. de Salis to provide him with uncertified copies. The Society of Genealogists in London has never heard of Mrs. de Salis.

T. K. Butcher

Postscript: The Whitneys and Royal Descent

I have noticed that some sources (Duncumb, the Hereford pedigrees, the The Golden Grove and thus de Salis) claim royal descent for the Whitneys through the marriage of Sir Robert Whitney to Constance [Touchet-AEG], d. of Lord Audley by his wife Eleanor, illegitimate daughter of Edmund Holland, Earl of Kent, by Constance, his mistress, d. of Edmund de Langley, fifth son of Edward III. P. C. Bartrum (see above) is sure that Constance was Sir Robert's first wife and the only issue of that marriage was a daughter, Jane, who m. Roger Vaughn of Porthaml. Sir Robert's other children were by his second wife, Elizabeth, d. of Thomas Vaughn of Hergest. (See also Vis. Herefordshire, 1569, Harl. 615, ff. 60b., 61.)

(Signed) Thomas Kennedy Butcher

Woodman Cottage
Pishill Bottom
Oxon, RG7 6HJ
England, 1987

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