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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the English Dunham family come from? What is the English Dunham family crest and coat of arms? When did the Dunham family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Dunham family history?

The ancestry of the name Dunham dates from the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. It comes from when the family lived in the parish of Dunham, in the county of Norfolk. The place-name is made up of two old English elements: dun, which is a word for hill; and ham, which means home. The translation of the name is home on the hill.

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Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate spelled their names differently as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Dunham have been found, including Dunham, Dunnam, Downham, Dounham, Downnam and others.

First found in Norfolk at Downham Market, often referred to as Downham, a town and civil parish. The place dates back to c. 1050 and was listed later in 1086 in the Domesday Book as Dunham. However, there are several more listings of the place name including Little Downham in Cambridgeshire, Downham, Lancashire and Downham, Essex. Downham Estate is a housing estate in Downham, south east London named in honour of Lord Downham, who was chairman of the London County Council between 1919-1920. Downham Hall is an English country house in Downham, Lancashire, but this estate was never held by anyone with the family name.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Dunham research. Another 305 words(22 lines of text) covering the years 1190, 1332, 1511, 1577, 1561 and 1577 are included under the topic Early Dunham History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 21 words(2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Dunham Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Dunham family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 37 words(3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Families began migrating abroad in enormous numbers because of the political and religious discontent in England. Often faced with persecution and starvation in England, the possibilities of the New World attracted many English people. Although the ocean trips took many lives, those who did get to North America were instrumental in building the necessary groundwork for what would become for new powerful nations. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America bore the name Dunham, or a variant listed above:

Dunham Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • John Dunham of Plymouth who in 1633 purchased land at Dartmouth
  • Robert Dunham, who arrived in Virginia in 1650
  • Thomas Dunham, who landed in Virginia in 1650
  • John Dunham of Barnstable settled in America in 1655

Dunham Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • John Dunham, who arrived in Maryland in 1747

Dunham Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Henry Dunham, aged 32, landed in New York in 1812
  • Ann Dunham, who arrived in New York in 1836
  • John S Dunham, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1849
  • B T Dunham, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850
  • E Dunham, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851


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  • William Barrett Dunham, American Educator and Administrator
  • Katherine Dunham (1910-2006), African-American dancer and choreographer
  • Technical Sergeant Russell E Dunham, American officer awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1945
  • Major-General George Clark Dunham (1887-1954), American Director of Health & Sanitation Division, Institute of Inter-American Affairs (1942-1945)
  • Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-1995), American anthropologist, mother of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States
  • Archie W. Dunham (b. 1938), American Independent Non-Executive Chairman of Chesapeake Energy in Oklahoma City, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Conoco Inc
  • Cyrus Livingston Dunham (1817-1877), American Civil War Colonel, U.S. Representative from Indiana (1849-1855)
  • Jason Lee Dunham (1981-2004), American Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, eponym of the destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109)
  • Jeffrey "Jeff" Dunham (b. 1962), American ventriloq Uist and stand-up comedian; Forbes.com ranked him as the third highest-paid comedian in the United States (2008-2009)
  • Jonathan Singletary Dunham (1640-1724), American settler of Woodbridge, New Jersey, who built the first gristmill in New Jersey

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  • The Dunhams of Callaway: A Genealogical History by Ray Fields Dawson.
  • Fuller-Dunham Genealogy: From Edward Fuller of the Mayflower Robert Wallace Dunham.
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  1. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1790. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  2. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  3. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  4. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  5. Elster, Robert J. International Who's Who. London: Europa/Routledge. Print.
  6. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  9. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  10. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  11. ...

The Dunham Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Dunham Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 18 May 2014 at 14:05.

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