America’s most inbred family started with twin brothers whose kids married each other.
The Whittaker family from Odd, West Virginia, has a heartbreaking history of genetic defects due to inter-family marriages.
They’ve been documented in a short film by filmmaker Mark Laita, who highlights their struggles and the conditions that some members of the family are living with.
Despite their difficulties, the family has lived in Odd for generations, and their neighbours are supportive and protective of them.
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How did America’s most inbred family begin?
According to the Daily Mail, it all started with twin brothers Henry and John Whittaker in 1887.
Documents obtained by the outlet show that Henry married Sally Burton, and they had seven children, including John Emory Whittaker, born in 1913.
John married his own first cousin, Ada Riggs, and they had nine children, including Gracie Irene Whittaker, born in 1920.
Gracie and John married in 1935 and had their first daughter, Aileen Violet Whittaker, in 1937, who was the first of 15 children that the couple had.
Filmmaker Laita highlighted the various struggles that the Whittaker family has gone through with mental and physical abnormalities throughout their lives.
One member of the family, Ray, seems to suffer the most and communicates with Laita through noises and by pointing at items in his home in the same way that a child would.
Experts say that inter-family relations are likely to have caused some of the heartbreaking conditions that the living family members are struggling with.
Many members of the family have suffered from a heart attack, while two did not make it through infancy.
The Whittaker family’s genetic complications have caused a host of behavioural issues, which Laita has described as ‘out of control’.
The first time Laita approached the family was in the early 2000s, when he was initially met by the Whittaker’s ‘protective’ neighbours with a shotgun.
In April 2020, he revisited the Whittaker family, who he first met in 2004, and filmed them for an updated documentary.
The doc shows that the family has suffered a lot since their original meeting, with some members still unable to talk.
The Daily Mail say that not much is known about some of the family members, such as Nannie Lou Whittaker and Connie Jean Whittaker, both born in 1942 and 1943, respectively.
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Freddie Lee Whittaker, born in 1944, was part of the family portrait in the 2004 documentary but tragically passed away in May 2013 following a long illness.
The documentary also features Lorene Whittaker, born in 1946, and her son Timmy Whittaker, born in 1979.
The family welcomed the documentary makers with open arms and are seen eating breakfast and showing them the difference that had been made by GoFundMe donations.
The family was able to replace the roof of a property and purchase some vehicles to help them get around.
Mary Madeline Whittaker, born in 1948, passed away the following year, though it is unclear how she died.
John Wade Whittaker, born in 1950, died in 2022 after a long battle with cancer and had five children, several grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
Betty Ann Whittaker, born in 1952, is considered the matriarch of the family.
She reportedly promised her mother that she would not marry and planned to look after her 14 siblings.
Danny Ray Whittaker, known as Ray, was born a year after Betty and makes up a large part of the documentary.
Both he and Lorene both appear to be unable to talk, and only grunt, but other family members are able to talk on their behalf.