The English surname Whitham is an habitational name from any of various places so called. North and South Witham in Lincolnshire derive the name from the river on which they stand, which is of ancient British origin and uncertain meaning. Early examples of the surname include Peter de Wytham, mentioned in the Feet of Fines of Essex in 1295, and John Witham, recorded in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Essex. One Thomas Witham (died 1728) was chaplain to King James II, and was superior of St. Gregory's seminary, Paris (1699 - 1717). The Whitham family motto Optime Merenti means “ To the best deserving."