This interesting Irish surname is an Anglicized variant form of the ancient medieval "O'Dunain", from County Fermanagh. The original nameholders were known as "erenagh", which translates as "lay lords", and in effect describes a hereditary situation where the tenancy of the local church and lands was held by the erenagh, even when in some cases the original church itself had disappeared. The "erenagh" held the ancient privileges of the church and maintained a priest. Sometime in the 16th Century the church reclaimed its rights; however, following the Reformation the church itself lost most of its exemptions. The name is not common, but recordings include James Dunnan and his wife Jane (nee Thompson), witnesses at the christening of their son Hugh, at Kilwood, County Down, on June 18th 1867. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alexander Donnan, which was dated January 20th 1762, christened at Seaforde, County Down, during the reign of King George 111, known as "Farmer George", 1760 - 1820. 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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