This long-established and interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from a number of places thus called. Downham in Cambridgeshire recorded as "Duneham" in the Domesday Book of 1086; in Essex recorded as "Dunham" in the 1199 Pipe Rolls of the county; in Norfolk recorded as "Dunham" in the Domesday Book; and in Suffolk also recorded as "Dunham" in the Domesday Book, derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "dun", hill, mountain, and "ham", village, manor, homestead; hence, "homestead on the hill". Downham in Lancashire, recorded as "Dunum" in the 1194 Pipe Rolls, and in Nothumberland, recorded as "Dunum" in the 1186 Pipe Rolls, derives from the Olde English "dunum", the dative plural of "dun", hill. During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. John de Downham was noted in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire. On December 9th 1600, Elizabeth, daughter of John Downham, was christened at St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, London, and Thomas, son of Robert Downham, was christened at St. Margaret's, Westminster, also in London, on November 8th 1635. A Coat of Arms granted to the family depicts three red mascles, on an ermine fesse, all on a blue shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Siverth Dunham, which was dated 975, in the "Liber Eliensis", during the reign of King Edward "The Martyr", 975 - 978. 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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