This interesting surname, with spellings Dunn, Dunne, Donn, Donne, and Donnan, may be either Irish Gaelic or sometimes Anglo-Saxon and Norman in origin. It derives from the Old Gaelic word "donn", meaning brown, or the Old English pre 7th Century cognate of "dunn", also brown. It was originally given as an ethnic 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), and John le Dunn, was noted in the Fines Court rolls of of 1198 for Hertfordshire and Jobin Don appears in the Staffordshire Forest Pleas", dated 1271. In Ireland the name is generally found in County Down, in the province of Ulster, and it is said that in the far south in Cork, the Donnans of Donnanstown are of Norman origin. If so then they probably arrived in Ireland with Strongbow, earl of Pembroke in 1169. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Dun. This 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 sometimes 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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