Recorded in a range of spellings including Dunswell, Dunwell, and the either developed form or separate forms Dunnell, Dunnill, Dunill, Dunhill, and Dunhills, this is an English locational surname. It originates either from the hamlet of Dunswell, meaning 'Brown stream', near the town of Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire, or from a now 'lost' medieval village called 'Dun-hyll' or similar and meaning 'The Brown hill'. In all its spellings it is a name particularly associated with Yorkshire, where it is found in all the various spellings. Locational surnames are usually "from" names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original homes to move elsewhere. It was in past centuries, and to some extent it remains the case, that the easiest way to identify a stranger was to call him or sometimes her, by the name of the place from whence they came. Spelling being at best indifferent, and local dialects very thick, soon lead as with this name, to the development of variant forms. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving church registers include: Elen Dunwell, who was christened at St. Peters church, Leeds, on March 29th 1588, Ann Dunnell, christened at Dewsbury Parish Church, on July 15th 1621, Phillip Dunhill, a christening witness at Skipton on May 3rd 1630, and Jeremy Dunswell, who married Ann Pollard also at Dewsbury, on August 8th 1647.
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