The surname of WHITTIER was of two-fold origin. It was firstly an occupational name derived from the Old Norman VIOARR, composed of the elements VIO (wide) and ARR (messenger) meaning one who would travel and deliver certain items. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. The name was also a locational name for one who lived near a willow tree. Early records of the name mention John de Wythe and Alan atte Wyther who lived at Withy Farm in Danehill, County Sussex in the year 1296. Adam Whitter of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. The eagle depicted in the crest is emblematical of fortitude and magnaminity of mind. The Romans used the figure of an eagle for their ensign, and their example has been often followed. It is the device of Russia, Austria, Germany and the United States of America.
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