This interesting surname has two distinct and separate origins. The first is Anglo-Irish, being a form of the Old Gaelic "O'Dunlaing"; the Gaelic prefix 'O' indicating 'male descendant of', plus the personal byname 'Dunlaing', of uncertain meaning, but believed to be a rare topographical name from residence by a haven for ships. This is from 'dun', meaning harbour or refuge, plus 'long', a ship. In Ireland this type of origin is rare, because traditionally Irish family names were taken from the heads of tribes, or from some illustrious warrior, only a dozen or so being 'residential'.The Dowlings were one of the 'Seven septs of Leix', and their original territory, called 'Fearann Un n-Dunlaing' or 'Dowling's County', lay along the west bank of the River Barrow. Leading branches of the sept migrated to the bordering counties of Kilkenny and Carlow, and later to Wicklow; there are four townlands called Ballydowling in the last mentioned county. Thadg Dowling (1544 - 1628), was an Irish Language grammarian. The name is also medieval English, and as such a variant form of the surname 'Dolling' first recorded in the mid 13th Century. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century 'dol', a plaything, and as such a personal name of endearment not unlike the surnames 'Dear' and Darling'. Early recordings of the English surname include Peter Dollyng of Worcester in 1275, and Edmunde Dowling in the Hearth Roll Tax lists of Suffolk in 1674. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Dolling, which was dated 1243, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Somerset", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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