The WITHERBEE patronymic is of ancient English origin and is traced to the Norweigan and Danish conquest of the present (English) kingdom. This is shown by the name itself which is a territorial one indicating the establishment of family and the calling after it of the town of Weatherby, a well-known and picturesque market-town in the County of Yorkshire, situated between the cities of York and Leeds, and possessing an intersting history and many local antiquities on a notable character. It was called by the Saxons "Wedderby," the final syllable being the equivalent of the English "town" of the Norman-French "ville." References to the Weatherby family are indeed not lacking in the earlier records of the landed aristocracy of England and its branches, members having held high office in church and state as early as the year 1290. As early as 1461, reference is made on an ancient record to the daughters of Thomas Weatherby, a landed proprietor of Intwood, Norfolk. It was from Norfolk and the eastern counties that the principal stream of the Puritan emigration to America followed.
In 1558, Robert Witherby was condemned to death by Queen Mary for heresy but escaped owing to her death three days before the date set for his execution (THANK GOD!!--editor). Queen Elizabeth, who succeeded to the throne, released him, restored his confiscated estates, and bestowed the Royal Ermine on his coat of arms, giving him the motto "Tenax in Fide" ("Steadfast In Faith"), while his daughter was appointed maid of honor to the Dutchess Of York.
The spelling of the patronymic assumed in the course of time in various forms and its bearers, while tracing their descent from the original source, are today found in all parts of the United States under such slight transformations as WEATHERBEE, WITHERBY, WEATHERBY, WEATHERBYE, WITHERBE, AND WITHERBEE. In England it has been spelled WITHERBY for about 200 years and there is a tradition that it was earlier spelled WEATHERBY. This seems plausable because the crest on the coat of arms is a wether (sheep), while the old word "by" or "bye" means a locality or estate, so that the whole name may well mean what is now called a "sheep ranch." Whatever form it has assumed, its possessors have ever born a distinguished part in the creation and upbuilding of America. Members of th family have figured in the country's earliest days a members of the Colonial Council and legislative bodies of Massachusetts, Vermont, and other New England states, or earned distinction in the clerical and learned professions; others fought gallantly in the early wars and in the later history they have been prominent in every walk of life.
SUBMITTED BY BILL KNOWLTON, grandson of Jessica Witherbee Knowlton of Port Henry NY (God Bless Queen Liz!!)