Whitney was originally the name of a place. Whitney Parish in the western part of Herefordshire near Wales, was in the valley of the River Wye.
In the distribution of land among the followers of William the Conqueror, the area known as Whitney was granted to Sir Turstin, also known as “Turstin the Fleming.” Sometime between 1100-1200, one of Sir Turstin’s descendants, following the custom of the time, took the name of Whitney as a surname.
John Whitney was born in England in 1589. Educated at the famous Westminster School and trained as a merchant tailor, John seems to have been a very successful and distinguished gentleman. In April 1635, John booked passage on the Elizabeth and Ann for himself, his wife Elinor and their sons John, Richard, Nathaniel, Thomas and Jonathan. They arrived in America in June 1635 and immediately settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. John Whitney held several important positions in the community including constable, selectman and town clerk. He died in 1673.
The posterity of John and Elinor Whitney are innumerable. Among their descendants are Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; Newel K Whitney, first bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Dad.