This group of families first arrived in America during the Colonial Period (i.e. ca 1700-1800), but their exact origins are unknown. They were almost certainly from the British Isles, most likely England, but there appear to be several unrelated family lines. The most likely original spelling was 'Wheatcroft' or some variant thereof, with other common variant spellings being Wheatcraft, Whitcraft, Witcraft and Whitcroft. The 'craft' or 'croft' suffix is associated with farming communities, while the 'wheat' or 'flit' prefix suggests some unique feature associated with it. While some suggest that 'wheat' and 'flit' are variants of an earlier common name, nothing has been found to validate that all families had a common original name. As noted below, the 'Flitcraft' spelling has been traced to a small area in Winwick Parish, Lancashire, England. |
The English family name Whitcraft is classified as being of habitation origin. The phrase 'habitation names' is used to cescribe those family names which find their origins in the residence of the initial bearer. In some instances, such names are derived from the name of the town or region where the original bearer was born or resided. Others refer to the geographic location of the original bearer's home while still others may refer us to a sign displayed over the door of his residence. With regard to the family name Whitcraft, it is a variant of Wheatcroft, composed of the Old English words 'hwaete' and 'croft' meaning 'paddock, small holding'. Thus, this surname indicated 'one who dwelled on the enclosed land where wheat was grown.' Variants of the surname Whitcraft include Wheatcraft, Wheatcroft and Whitcroft.
One of the earliest references to this name or a variant is a record of one Adam de Wetecroft who is mentioned in the Pipe Rolls for Yorkshire in 1191. Further research of this name may be able ro document dates even earlier than this. Richard de Whatecrofth appears in the Susidy Rolls of Suffolk in 1327 and the marriage of Cutbert Crackplace and Anne Whitcraft took place in St. Peter, Cornhill, London, in 1604. The name was [officially] introduced in the U.S. in 1824 in which year we find a record of the emigration of William Whitcraft, who settled in New York. Up to the present time there is no record of bearers of this name being granted a Code of Arms.
The traditional family folklore, as noted in a 18 Dec 1901 letter from John Randolph Witcraft, of Camden, NJ to William Zorn Flitcraft, of Woodstown, NJ, is that there were four brothers - Henry Flitcraft, Isaiah Flitcraft, Joseph Flitcraft, and William Flitcraft - who came to America from Scotland and settled in New Jersey during Colonial Days [per below, a more recently identified record also suggests a probable 5th son - Francis Flitcraft]. But research undertaken on behalf of Edith Whitcraft Eberhard by Rod Stucker & Associates of Salt Lake City UT contradicts this :
| "After a thorough search by an accredited genealogist and his staff, no Flitcrafts were found in Scotland during that period, therefore, it was determined that they probably came from Kenyon, Winwick Parish, Lancashire, England, where the surname is found almost exclusively. The first instance of the surname in the records is in 1587 for George Flitcroft of Kenyon Parish of Winwick.|
In addition, South Lancashire was a hot-bed for the Quaker movement, many of whom immigrated to Philadelphia, PA, where there was a large Quaker settlement before the movement spread to Salem, N.J. during the Colonial time period. While we have not yet confirmed that Henry Flitcraft and his brothers were Quakers, however, Isaiah Flitcraft, of Salem County NJ, who appears to be a nephew of Henry, lists that he was a Quaker minister and descended from a Quaker family. Several Flitcrafts also appear to have married prominent Quaker families. This information strongly indicates that Henry Flitcraft and his brothers were Quakers and appear to have migrated to New Jersey from Pennsylvania. This could account also for them not being in the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812. Members of the Society of Friends are not allowed to fight.
The brothers immigrated to Burlington Co., N.J. The three single brothers [namely, Joseph, William, and Isaiah Flitcraft] probably arrived first in Philadelphia, Pa., before settling in Salem, N.J. along with their married brother."
Additional research has uncovered a New Jersey military record suggesting a fifth brother in the family. That record contains a list of men enlisted by Lieut. Col. Samuel Hunt, of the New Jersey Regiment, who were reviewed at Penington NJ 16 May 1760. The list is consecutively numbered rather than alphabetical, suggesting that names appearing together may have some sort of close affiliation. Just below the name of 'Joseph Flitcraft' (one of the 4 above named brothers) is a 'Francis Flitcraft', who would seem a previously undocumented sibling. Both had enlisted presumably for service in the French and Indian Wars. Had they been Quakers, enlisting would have violated the Quaker prohibition against bearing arms, and therefore they would have been expelled from church membership. Comments About the WHEATCRAFT Family
At least one source suggests that the Flitcrafts arrived in America somewhat earlier, starting with a James 'Whitcraft' who supposedly landed in New Castle Delaware about 1730. He in turn is indicated to be the father of two sons, Edward and Samuel. One of those sons - probably Samuel, since Edward reportedly moved to Maryland while Samuel remained in NJ - was in turn supposedly the father of the five Flitcraft brothers.
The source for this story is apparently a 1980 booklet titled "Origin of the Witcraft Family" authored by William and Betty Flitcraft of Indiana, and more recently updated by Teresa (Truax) Clendinneng. The story is probably correct in tracing the family back to England, but has little evidence for the claim that they are linked with the Croft family (who were of the landed gentry although not of noble blood). The logic for the Croft family link - i.e. that some unknown female 'Wheat' married some unknown Croft and adopted the hyphenated surname 'Wheat-Croft' - is a fiction and without documentation. Given its improbability, all other claims for a specific English ancestry must also be questioned.
The booklet is summarized on Teresa Clendinneng's website HERE, while elsewhere on the site HERE is a 40 page MSWord document with the full text. Among its reported statements is that 'the earliest record of the "Wheat-Croft" family is William Whaytcroft, also spelled Whaytecroft and Whitecroft, who was born about 1335 and lived at Burgh, in Lincolnshire. He was a landowner there. He had a son Richard, born about 1360, who had a son Thomas, born about 1386, who had a son William, born about 1408."
"The Whitecroft family, now called "Whitcraft" settled in America at an early date. The original immigrant, James Whitcraft, landed at New Castle, Delaware, about 1730. His wife was Jane Baptist. They had two sons: Edward and Samuel, both of whom settled in New Jersey. Edward married Elizabeth Weston July 18, 1732, and had a son Edward, who married Rebecca Taylor, and later they went to Maryland. Samuel married Sarah Carter May 7, 1736. His second wife was Ann Hill of Chesterfield, NJ--married May 26, 1773."
But according to several IGI submissions and other family records, the above named individuals had their surname spelled 'Wheatcraft'. There is also a family line of 'Wheatcrafts' who resided in Perry Co. OH in the early 1800's, who cite Edward 'Whitcraft' and Rebecca Taylor as the parents. But any link between the Whitcrafts/Wheatcrafts of Deleware, and the Five Witcraft brothers, must currently be seen as doubtful.
Further research on the Wheatcraft line is clearly needed. While there seems little chance that Samuel and Edward Whitcraft/Wheatcraft are of the Flitcraft line, they may well be the progenitors of the later Wheatcraft lines found in Ohio and elsewhere. It is certainly plausible to have a family named 'Wheatcraft' known for a generation or two as 'Whitcrafts', to return to the earlier spelling in later generations. But it does beg credulity to believe that a family named 'Wheatcraft/Whitcraft' would first have changed their name to Flitcraft (the reason for which is unknown as well as undocumented), only to adopt several added variations in succeeding generations, but with none of the variations being Wheatcraft.