Recorded as Dunseath, Dunsheath, Dunshea, Dunshee and Dunseith, this is a surname of early Gaelic and certainly Irish origins. It has possible Scottish connections through the surname Dunsleve, although this is not proven. Composed of the elements dun, meaning a fort, and sith or shee, a fairy or fairy hill, the name probably translates literally as "The fort on the fairy hill". The surname has been prominent in the counties of Tyrone and Antrim since the 17th century, whilst older spellings such as Dunsith and Dunsheesithe were found in the Tyrone and Antrim Hearth Money tax rolls in 1604 and 1669. A few of the names appear in the Eighteenth Century Cork marriage licence bonds, but the name is confined mainly to Ulster, and particularly the Ballymena area. The London church registers also have some early recordings with examples such as the christening of Jeremiah Dunshee on September 10th 1769 at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, and and that of Alexander Dunsheath at St. Botolph's without Aldgate, on November 1st 1783. The name was further introduced into England by Irish immigrants during the infamous Potato Famine of 1845 -1847. Although the famine emigration is popularly assumed to be with the USA, at least as many unfortunate people came to England and Scotland. The first recorded spelling of the family name may be that of James Dunsayer. He acquired property at Mount Stewart in County Tyrone, about the year 1600, and during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st of England, 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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