This interesting surname is either of Anglo-Saxon or Scottish and Irish origin, and has three possible sources. Firstly, it may be a topographical name from the Olde English pre 7th Century "dun" meaning "down", or "low hill", or a nickname for a man with dark hair or a swarthy complexion, from the Middle English, Olde English pre 7th Century "dunn" meaning "dark-coloured". Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. In part it may also derive from an unrecorded Middle English survival of the Olde English byname "Dunn(a)", "Dark". Finally, It may be of Scottish and Irish origin, deriving from the Gaelic "Donn", a byname for a person with dark hair or a swarthy complexion, from the Gaelic "donn" meaning "dark" or "brown", or a locational name from Dun in the former county of Angus, deriving from the Gaelic "dun" fort. The surname dates back to the late 12th Century (see below), and variations in the idiom of the spelling include: Down, Downe, Downes and Downs. Recordings from London Church Registers include the marriage of Margery Down and John Swayne on January 22nd 1561, at St. Stephen's, Walbrooke. Mary Down, aged 18 yrs., a famine emigrant, sailed from Liverpool aboard the "Sheridan", bound for New York in May 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de la Duna, Sussex, which was dated circa 1170, in "Studies on Middle English Local Surnames", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1116 - 1172. 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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