Strange Week, Crazy Weather, and Whitney Research

First I'd like to say, I hope everyone out there who was in the path of Hurricane Irene is safe and sound and escaped with as little damage possible to property. Strange week, first earthquake and then hurricane, and I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Things have a way of coming in threes. Anyway back to genealogy.

I have been looking a bit further into my Portuguese connection. Just as a recap to those who may be new to my blog. Samuel Whitney born about 1775 and listed on the 1830 census for New Bern, I believe is my 4th great grandfather. According to family oral history, he was originally from Azores, Portugal and migrated to Bermuda first and eventually settled in America. The description I have from my Great Aunt of Samuel Whitney (b1856-d.1916), the elder Samuel Whitney's grandson, was that he was very fair skinned with light green eyes and reddish blond hair.

Now this description of Samuel was a bit startling to me because I never thought fair skin, green eyes, and reddish blond hair were typical Portuguese features. So I decided to look into this a bit further. After a few google searches I came up with some interesting information. The first thing I wanted to do though was see if I could link the Whitney name back to Bermuda. I figured my ancestor dropped his Azorean surname when he arrived to Bermuda to assimilate as best as possible.

There is a website called WRG--which stands for The Whitney Research Group. The site documents information regarding over 5900 family groups.  According to their site, the earliest Whitney that had ties to Bermuda was a Samuel Whitney ( b.1615-d.1674). He apparently was of English descent and had amassed some wealth in land and slaves. Here is an excerpt from the site:

Although Samuel Whitney purchased land in Pembroke Tribe and on St David's Island, he appears to have himself resided in Sandy's Tribe on two shares of land leased from John Heydon. Mr Heydon  was one of the original adventurers and owned Sandy's lot #5 comprising 10 shares of land. Thus, Samuel Whitney and his family almost certainly lived somewhere in lot #5, Somerset Island, Sandy's Tribe, Bermuda (leasing 1/5 of the lot.).

(double click image to enlarge)

I have highlighted the areas in blue to show the general locations of the land that Samuel Whitney either leased or owned.

Somer's Isle Map
(double click image to enlarge)

Now Samuel's will is also featured on the WRG site and it describes him as a planter and being of "Sandy's Tribe". The term tribe used to be used in Bermuda to describe a certain area or Parish. From a copy of the 1676 Somer's Isle Map created by John Speed courtesy of Wikipedia you can see Sandy's tribe listed on the left side of the map. On the more current map courtesy of Google, it is the first point on left I have highlighted in blue.

Now could this Samuel Whitney have any connection to my 4th Great Grandfather Samuel who came from the Azores? Perhaps.

Now the Bermudian Samuel Whitney had at a minimum 5 children.  Here's what the WRG site said about those children.

i. Samuel Whitney, born say 1648, died 22 Sep 1722. St. George, Bermuda

ii. David Whitney, born about 1650, Bermuda; died Apr 1707, Bermuda.

iii. Ruth Whitney. In her father's will, Ruth Whitney was left her father's slaves (after her mother had died) a silver tankard, a silver dram cup, a Spanish chest with everything in it a tobacco chest, and if her two brothers died without their heirs, she was to received the land that had been willed to them. 

iv. Abigal Whitney, born in Bermuda. She married John Lydell. "My daughter Abigle Lidell" was left one tobacco chest in her father's will. "Lyndale, John "holdeth of " Whitney, Saml (of Sandy's), formerly belonging to Mr. Dykes: 30 acres.

v. Elizabeth Whitney, married Mr. King. "My Daughter Elizabeth King" was left one tobacco chest in her father's will. 

Two of the children's names peeked my interest. Samuel and David. Those names were carried down to my 2nd Great Grandfather and his oldest son. Another interesting note from the WRG site:

Because Samuel was given the land on St. David's Island in St. Georges Tribe that his father had owned, and his only known brother David was given land in Pembroke, it is likely, but by no means certain, that records in St. Georges Tribe belong to descendants of this Samuel. An analysis of available records indicates that there were as many as 5 Samuels in St. George's, (St David's Island) including this Samuel and his father.

Let's speculate. What if you were new to some place. You want to assimilate and try to make the best life possible for you and your family. You are a foreigner who speaks a different language and don't look like the other white folks on the island of  Bermuda. What would invoke a more trusting response from someone who doesn't know you. You tell him your name is Silva or Whitney? Or perhaps you were an imported worker to work the lands of a wealthy landowner and you worked for the Whitneys and therefore inherited the surname that way. Right now it looks like my ancestor may have had some sort of association with this Bermudian Whitney line.

Back to the question of looks. Where did the fair complexion, green eyes, and reddish blond hair come from.  Well, I looked into a couple of old message board posts on Roots Web and also, looked a little more into the history of the Azores Islands. It turns out the looks I described actually are not atypical in some parts of the Azores. Specifically it looks like the Islands of Pico and Terceira have higher numbers of individuals with fair skin, light hair, blond or red in color sometimes and blue or green eyes. The Azores had several influxes of people over the years. One those influxes of people were the Flemish and that is to whom many Azoreans have attributed these fairer features to.

Can I tell you something? Man it was a struggle to get this post written today. LOL. Every five seconds Ma this! Do this for me.Where's my favorite toy? Mom... no for real,  we have a major problem. I can't find Iron Man. I can't find Iron Man. AAAAAHHHH! Okay, I feel much better now. Take care everybody. I have to go find Iron Man now.



  1. Thank you for the recap! The maps are very helpful as I had no idea about the Azores Islands.


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