This is an English locational surname. It derives from one of the villages called Dunham in the county of Nottingham, or Dunham Magna and Dunham Parva, in Norfolk, or Dunham on the Hill, in both Norfolk and Cheshire. The origin is the pre 7th century Olde English "dun" meaning a hill and "ham," a hamlet or homstead. In effect the villages called Dunham on the Hill are repeating themselves, as Dunham means on the hill! Locational surnames were usually given to people after they left their original homes and moved elsewhere. It was in medieval times, and to some extent remains so to-day, that one of the easiest ways to identify a stranger was to call him, or sometimes her, by the name of the place from whence they came. This often lead to mispellings of the surname as applies in this case in that the surname is found as Dunham and Donham or sometimes even Doneham. Early examples of the surname recording include those of Edwarde Dunham at the village of North Elmham in Norfolk, on October 9th 1546, during the reign of King Henry V111 (!510 - 1547), and in Cheshire that of Thomas Donham, a witness at the town of Nantwich on November 5th 1790.
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