This interesting surname, with variant spellings Dunn, Dunne, Don, Donn and Donne, may be either Celtic - Gaelic or Anglo-Saxon in origin. It derives from the Old Gaelic "donn", brown, or the Old English pre 7th Century "dunn", brown, or the Old English pre 7th Century "dunn", dull brown or dark, and was originally given as a distinguishing nickname to someone with dark hair or a swarthy complexion. The surname first appears on record in England in the latter part of the 12th Century, (see below). John le Dunn, witness, was noted in the 1198 "Fine court Rolls of Hertfordshire and Jobin Don appears in "The Staffordshire Forest Pleas", dated 1271. Adam le Donn or le Dun was recorded in the 1275 "Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire" and in a "Calendar of documents relating to Scotland". Notable namebearers were Sir George Don, (1754-1832), general, second in command the forces of Scotland, 1804, liutenant - Governor of Gibralter, 1814; G.C.B., 1820, and David Don, (1800-1841); professor of botany in King's College, London, 1836-1841. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Dun, which was dated 1180, in the "Pipe Rolls of Gloucestershire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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