This most interesting surname has a number of possible origins. Firstly, it may be of Scottish locational origin from "Dunnet", a coastal parish and village on Dunnet Bay near Thurso and Dunnet Head is the most northern point of the Scottish mainland. Secondly the name may be a variant of either "Downhead", in Somerset or "Donhead" in Wiltshire, composed of the old English elements "dun-heafod", the top of the Down. Finally, the surname may have originated as a nickname for a man with dark hair or a swarthy complexion, from the old English word "dunn", dark-coloured, plus the diminutive suffix "-ett". The surname dates back to the early 13th Century (see below), while one John de Dunheued appeared in 1246 in Sir Christopher Hatton's Book of Seals, Wiltshire. One Mary, daughter of Robert Donnett was christened on January 7th 1592 at St. Andrew's church, Holborn, London. Scottish records first mention the name in 1541 when one Sir Gilbert Dynnocht was vicar of Ardurnes. Matthew and George Dunnett of Giles, Caithness were apprehended as rebels in 1670 in the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Dunheued, which was dated 1201, The Pipe Rolls of Somerset, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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