Meet the Whittakers - the most inbred family in the United States

Meet the Whittakers - the most inbred family in the United States

The Whittakers are arguably one of the most inbred families in the United States of America. They came into the spotlight after the American photographer Mark Laita shared about them in his book, Created Equal, and YouTube documentaries. This article explains how the life of the Whittaker family has transformed ever since their story went public.

the Whittakers inbred family
Betty, Ray, Kenneth, Larry, Lorraine, and Timmy. Photo: @SoftWhiteUnderbellyOfficial (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Mark Laita's documentaries about the Whittaker family from West Virginia have drawn the world's attention to the family. As a result, many have contributed money to improve their lives.

What is the story behind the Whittakers?

Mark Laita visited the Whittaker family in West Virginia for the first time in 2004. He was researching poverty levels in the area for his book Created Equal, which he published in 2009.

How many Whittakers are there?

The surviving Whittaker family members are siblings Betty, Lorraine, Ray, and their cousin Timmy. The four are close to Larry and Kenneth, who are part of their extended family.

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In some of Mark Laita's documentaries, Betty, Larry, and Kenneth say the entire Whittaker family comprises 15 siblings whose grandparents were not closely related.

Where does the Whittaker family reside?

The Whittakers reside in the rural mountain town of Odd, West Virginia.

Meet the Whittakers
Betty Whittaker standing and sitting on a couch. Photo: @SoftWhiteUnderbellyOfficial (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Residents in the Whittaker neighborhood rejected Laita's initial visit in 2004 because they didn't like people visiting the area to mock the family. One even threatened the production team with a shotgun if they didn't leave.

As a result, the photographer had to be escorted by a police officer to meet the family. Mark Laita and the Whittakers‌ spent extensive time together after he won the trust of the neighbors.

Eventually, the Whittaker family's neighbors allowed him to take photos and videos. Mark shared his first Whittakers‌ documentary, Inbred Family - The Whittakers, on his YouTube channel.

At the beginning of his documentary about the Whittaker family's inbred story, Laita put a disclaimer to caution people not to visit the family's neighborhood uninvited. The photographer said;

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I first photographed the Whittaker family for my first book, "Created Equal," in 2004. That visit was interrupted by an angry neighbor with a short gun who threatened to use it if I didn't leave the Whittaker alone. After explaining what I was doing, he calmed down and allowed me to photograph the Whittaker family… I strongly discourage anyone attempting to look for the Whittakers, as their armed neighbors and the Raleigh County deputies both make it clear that curious visitors are not welcome.
Meet the Whittakers
Ray Whittaker sitting on a chair and standing beside a car. Photo: @SoftWhiteUnderbellyOfficial (modified by author)
Source: UGC

It is evident from Laita's videos and photos that Whittakers have different mental, physical, and communication anomalies. For instance, their eyes do not face forward.

What condition does the Whittaker family have?

The Whittaker family members, who only communicate via grunts and squawks, suffer from non-verbal, level-three autism. They understand what someone is talking about and start yelling if they don't like it.

Mark Laita noted that the family has a long and complicated inbreeding history. In his first YouTube video with the Whittakers, he can be heard saying,

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There is no way I would be able to confirm that the Whittaker parents were related, but given that this does happen in this part of the country and the Whittakers are the most extreme case I’ve seen so far… I would bet that inbreeding was at least partly responsible for the mental and physical abnormalities seen in Lorraine, Freddie, Ray, and Timmy.

The Whittakers family tree

The secretive nature of this Appalachian family makes it hard for people to dig deep into their lineage. All the public knows is that the parents of the four siblings (Betty, Lorraine, Freddie (late), and Ray) are dead.

Their father, John Whittaker, was a coal miner, while the mother, Gracie, was a homemaker. Freddie and John died of a heart attack, and Gracie succumbed to cancer.

the Whittakers inbred family
Timmy Whittaker wearing pants and T-shirts. Photo: @SoftWhiteUnderbellyOfficial (modified by author)
Source: UGC

How are the Whittakers all related?

In Laita's follow-up YouTube video, Betty confirmed that she and her siblings are double first cousins with Timmy — meaning they share both sets of grandparents.

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Their two other brothers, Kenneth and Larry, are well-spoken and live nearby. Moreover, Larry has a daughter named after her aunt, Betty, and Timmy is among the few members of the Whittaker family tree who graduated high school.

Several Appalachian commentators have different views regarding the Whittaker family tree and the possible causes of their physical challenges and abnormalities.

Mark Laita offered the Whittakers food and money during his initial visit. The photographer has kept in touch and visited them ever since. Mark Laita and the Whittakers had an impromptu reunion in 2022.

the Whittakers in the United States
Lorraine Whittaker wearing a floral top and a plain pink top. Photo: @SoftWhiteUnderbellyOfficial (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The Whittaker GoFundMe campaign

The American photographer set up a GoFundMe in 2021 to help the Whittaker clan with living expenses and home improvements.

They lived in deplorable conditions, and there was a high probability of earning a low to average income yearly in southwestern West Virginia. In addition, some cannot work due to physical and mental impairments.

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How much money was raised for the Whittaker family?

Although the fundraising targeted $75,000, they raised around $50,000. The family used part of the money on medical expenses for Lorraine and Timmy's heart attacks in 2020 and 2021.

Is there a movie about the Whittaker family?

Mark Laita's latest documentary, The Whittakers-Spring 2022, is available on his YouTube channel. The video reveals how GoFundMe has enabled them to own a car, refrigerator, bed, and other home amenities.

Ray is seen taking Laita on tour around their newly-renovated home in the Whittakers documentary. He even showed the photographer a dent in their new truck that a deer had caused.

Where is the Whittaker family now?

The family resides in Odd town in rural West Virginia, USA.

Whittaker family
Kenneth Whittaker wearing a cap, and Larry Whittaker wearing a jacket. Photo: @SoftWhiteUnderbellyOfficial (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The Whittakers are surrounded by caring neighbors and local authorities who protect them from outsiders who want to bully and exploit them. Anyone who desires to interview them must seek approval from the local government and the Whittakers' neighbors.

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Nigerian richest woman, Alakija, trains female entrepreneurs for 4 months, shares N200 million recently published an interesting piece about short celebrities. While Hollywood has always been associated with tall male actors, height is no longer a factor in the industry. However, popular culture has emphasised the importance of being tall, naming many tall celebrities among the most attractive in the world.

Regardless, being short has not stopped these short celebrities from achieving greatness. Some of the big names in the industry are short and have not let height stop them from achieving success in the scene. They prove that what matters in life is how well you utilise your talents and how hard you are willing to work to achieve greater heights.


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