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Whitelaw Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: SOLERTIA DITAT (Full by degrees)

Allow me to recount the fascinating history of your family name, Whitelaw, a tale woven with the threads of Scottish heritage. The origins of ‘Whitelaw’ are rooted in a place name, where ‘law’ denotes a hill in Scots. Thus, the name signifies ‘White Hill’ or ‘the people who reside on the white hill’. The lands and barony of Whitelaw graced the Borders parish of Bowden in Berwickshire, and another patch of land with the same name was nestled in Morebattle. The surname’s inception can be traced to the landowner adopting the place of residence as a title. While there are scant traces to their origins, they might have been indigenous border inhabitants of British or Anglo-Saxon descent, or perhaps newcomers of Scottish or Norman origins.

The first appearance of the name in Scottish records dates back to 1296, where John de Wytelowe of the county of Edinburgh appears on the Ragman Roll. This was a time of turmoil following an English invasion and the subsequent dismantling of the Scottish kingdom. Through the Wars of Independence that ensued, the role of the Whitelaws remains shrouded in mystery, yet it is likely they aligned with Robert the Bruce’s cause, as they retained their lands after the conflict.

In 1430, John Wytelowe of that Ilk emerged as a juror in an inquiry concerning lands at Gladsmuir. His heraldic crest featured three boars’ heads, signifying their presence and significance. Notably, Archibald Whitelaw, a scion of the main lineage, rose to prominence as the Archdeacon of St Andrews, eventually serving as Secretary of State to James III and representing the nation as an ambassador to Spain.

In the sixteenth century, the Whitelaws secured the Fenton of that Ilk lands through an heiress. Patrick Whitelaw of that Ilk demonstrated unwavering allegiance to Mary, Queen of Scots, during the ill-fated battle of Langside in 1568. His loyalty, unfortunately, led to forfeiture by the government supporting the young James VI. The Whitelaws of that Ilk lineage culminated with heiress Jean, whose union with Walter Burnside marked the transition.

During the mid-nineteenth century, another branch of the Whitelaw family acquired the Gartshore estate near Kirkintilloch. Their arms, subtly varied from the principal line, tell the story of their heritage. This lineage produced the notable British Conservative statesman, William Whitelaw, who later earned the title of Viscount Whitelaw of Penrith, becoming one of the final hereditary peers to receive such an honor. As your family history intertwines with Scotland’s rich tapestry, it stands as a testament to resilience, heritage, and the remarkable individuals who have shaped its story.

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Family Crest Motto: GRADATIM PLENA (Full by degrees)

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