Henry F. Whitenah and Margaret Burns

Henry F. Whitenah Margaret Burns
Birth: 1727 Bommel, Holland or 1743 Somerset, New Jersey Birth: between 1750 and 1760
Christening: poss. 1743 Harlingen Church, Montgomery Twp., Somerset, New Jersey
Marriage: before 1780
Death: between 24 December 1818 and 12 Jan 1819 Berkeley, Virginia Death: between 1830 and 1840
Father: Johannes Whitenaught Father: William Burns
Mother: Joanna VanMetre

Although much doubt and confusion surround the origins of the Whitnah family in America, Henry F.(1) Whitenah can be reliably identified as the ancestor of most, if not all, of the Whitnah's in the United States today. It was during Henry's lifetime that the original surname was changed to Whitenah which later became Whitnah.

Information on Henry's birth and ancestry are conflicting. The earliest uncontrovertible documentation we have for our Henry Whiteneck comes from a letter dated October 18, 1782 from his father, Johannes Whitenaught (see Letter of Johannes Whiteknaught). This letter establishes that Henry was the son of Johannes, whereas some family records admit there might be one or two generations between Johannes and Henry. The most probable identity of Henry's father is Johannes Witeknaght who lived in the Sowerland Mountains of Somset County, New Jersey. Johannes Witeknaght of New Jersey had a son Henry, and there is currently no documented evidence of any other Johannes living in America of the appropriate age who could have been Henry's father.

Without any evidence to the contrary, we will assume that Henry F. Whiteneck is the son of Johannes Witeknaght and Neeltje of New Jersey (see Is Johannes Whitenaught of New Jersey the Father of Henry Whiteneck? for additional reasoning for this conclusion).

Henry Whiteneck was likely born in late 1742 or early 1743 and christened on February 18, 1743 in the Raritan (Dutch) Reformed Church in Somerset County New Jersey.

According to the recollection of his granddaughter, Margaret A. Whitnah, Henry was a soldier in the Revolutionary Wary(2), with another source stating that Henry served under the command of Daniel Morgan(3). Henry would have been 34 at the time of the Revolution. Lists of Revolutionary soldiers show a Henry Whitenack participating in the battles at New York in early 1777 in a regiment formed from Pennsylvania. It is likely that this is not our Henry.

The next documented mention of Henry finds him married in late 1782 (date included in the letter from his father). Henry married Margaret Burns, daughter of William Burns and Joanna Van Meter(4). The Van Meter family owned much of the land in the county, with the Burns family also being one of the prominent families in the area, living near Kearneyville, Berkeley County, Virginia. They were likely married at least before August 1779, as Johannes' will mentions an unmarried son by name (Abraham), directing that he receive an outset when he marries, the same as his other sons who have married. His son Hendrick is mentioned by name, but because he is not also singled out as being unmarried, we might assume that he was married by that time.

Most likely, Henry and Margaret lived in Berkeley County following their marriage as Henry was away from his parent's home in 1782. In 1783, Henry is listed on the Berkeley County Personal Property Tax Roles for the first time. In 1787 he purchased 200 acres south of Martinsburgh from John Whiteneck of Frederick County, Maryland(5). This land lay approximately four miles south of the County Courthouse in Martinsburgh on the west side of Opeckon Creek(6). Later the land was identified as lying along Burnsford Road (a.k.a. the road to Burns' Ford)(7).

Through the years, Henry would sell and buy land adjoining this original purchase, but he remained there with his family until his death(8). William Burns eventually bought property next to Henry, later selling much of the same to Henry and his wife(9).

Because Henry spent the remainder of his life in Berkeley County, there are many documents which shed light into his family and life. At least five land deeds include Henry and/or Margaret as either grantor or grantee(10). Henry's land holdings ranged from 290 acres in 1787, to a low of 100 acres in 1791, to 376 acres in the years preceding his death. Henry first appeared on the property tax lists in Berkeley County in 1789, and can be found for each recorded year until his death in 1819/1820(11). After his death, his property continued to be listed under his name until 1839. Personal property tax records for the years 1814 to 1819 show that he owned between 3 to 5 horses or mules(12). In particular, the 1815 personal property tax list records 8 head of cattle and a chest of drawers. In addition to these documents, Henry and wife Margaret are named as defendants in a suit involving the division of William Burns' estate(13).

Only the 1810 census of Virginia survives from that time period, as earlier records for that portion of the state were destroyed by the British during the Revolution. The 1810 Census shows 1 male over 45 (Henry), 2 males age 16-26 (John G. and William or Joseph), 1 female over 45 (Margaret), 1 female age 26-45 (Eleanor or Ruth), 1 female age 16-26 (Sarah), and 1 female age 10-16 (Rebecca)(14).

Throughout his life, Henry's name was recorded with the following variations: Whiteknecht, Whiteneck, Whitenough, Whitenah, and Whitnah.(15). Henry passed away between 24 December 1818 and 12 January 1819.(16) Documents indicate he was active until shortly before his death(17). Unfortunately, Henry left no will, and his estate (excepting the land) was inventoried and sold(18). His son John G. then took over the family farm, presumably caring for his mother Margaret until her death between 1830 and 1840 (possibly in 1839)(19). Little documentation exists for Margaret, Henry's wife, besides the few land sales and documents regarding the estate of her father, William Burns.

Henry's granddaugher, Margaret A. Whitnah, states that Henry died at the advanced age of 92(20). If true, then that would mean that Henry was born in 1727, 16 years before he was christened. What is more likely is that this recollection by his granddaugher actually refers to Johannes Whiteknaught, not Henry. Johannes is said to have been born in Dec 1699/1700, and died in 1793, making him 92 years old at the time of his death. This is a more probable scenario.

It was said of Henry that he was "a man who enjoyed the respect and highest esteem of every one with whom he was acquainted."(21)


Henry and Margaret are the parents of the following children(23):
  1. Hannah Whitnah. Hannah married Samuel Roberts on 5 Mar 1795, in Berkeley County, Virginia.(24)
  2. Eleanor Whitnah. "Nellie" Whitnah died 15 October 1826(25). She never married(26).
  3. Ruth Whitnah. In 1834, Ruth Whitenah was unmarried and living in New York with her brother Joseph(27).
  4. John G. Whitnah
  5. Sarah Whitnah
  6. Margaret Whitnah
  7. William Burns Whitnah
  8. Joseph Henry Whitnah, Sr.
  9. Rebecca Whitnah


  1. Weidknecht, Dolores Weidknecht Young. Mrs. Young refers to records contained in a family Bible kept by Emma Foote. This is the only reference we have of Henry's middle initial.
  2. History of Wheeling, and Ohio County, and Representative Citizens, pp. 830-833.
  3. Weidknecht.
  4. ???
  5. See Land Sale: John and Jane Whiteneck to Henry Whiteneck. It is possible that John Whiteneck of Frederick County, Maryland is related to Henry. John's father John is possibly a son of Johannes Whitenack of New Jersey. If Henry is the son of Johannes of New Jersey, John Jr. is possibly his nephew.
  6. Berkeley County Tax Lists, 1812-1818.
  7. Berkeley County Tax Lists, 1819-1826. Burns' Ford was owned by William Burns, Henry's father-in-law.
  8. Berkeley County Deeds, Book 21 Pg. 320, FHL film 0829889.
  9. Land Records
  10. See Land Records for the deeds involving Henry Whiteneck.
  11. Property Taxes
  12. Property Taxes
  13. Henry and Margaret Whitenah Court Order
  14. 1810 Census. 1 male over 45 (Henry), 2 males age 16-26 (John G. and William or Joseph), 1 female over 45 (Margaret), 1 female age 26-45 (Eleanor or Ruth), 1 female age 16-26 (Sarah), 1 female age 10-16 (Rebecca). John G. lived his life in Berkeley County, taking over the farm at Henry's death. His is likely one of the males counted in the census. William was in the area when Henry died in 1819 and is likely the other male, although Joseph would have been 18 at the time and possibly still at home. Eleonor (Nellie) never married and is likely the female between 26 and 45. Hannah was likely married by that time. Margaret had married in 1800 and was no longer with the family.
  15. Perhaps it was through the English-speaking influence of his Scottish wife that Henry modified his name from the Dutch-sounding Whiteneck to an English-sounding Whitnah.
  16. Henry appears in court records for 1818 and 1819 (see FHL film 1844906) as follows: So Henry was alive on 24 December 1818, but had passed away by 12 January 1819.
  17. Wheeling.
  18. Inventory of the Estate of Henry Whitenah The appraisal took place on 28 January 1819.
  19. There is no conclusive proof of Margaret's death. However, we can use the following facts to narrow down the time frame:
  20. Wheeling.
  21. Wheeling.
  22. Henry's signature came from the original records he signed when he inventoried Robert Hasting's estate on 24 December 1818. (See FHL film 1844906) Unlike many court records, this was the original inventory, not a copy made for the court by a clerk, so the signature that appears on the document is an actual signature.
  23. www.familysearch.org lists these nine children of Henry and Margaret. I have been able to verify the relationship of each to Henry and Margaret through other documents. However, one deed mentions that Henry's land was divided eight ways. One daughter, Eleonor, had died in 1826.
  24. Marriage Records of Berkeley County, pg. 246. Marriage performed by Moses Hoge.
  25. Selected Notices in the Martinsburgh Gazette
  26. Ibid.
  27. Land Sale: Joseph Whitenah, Ruth Whitenah to John Whitenah