Show ContentsDonn History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Early Origins of the Donn family

The surname Donn was first found in Cheshire at Duddon, a township, in the parish of Tarvin, union of Great Boughton, Second division of the hundred of Eddisbury.

"The manor was for many generations in moieties between the families of Bruen and Done; the first passed, with Bruen-Stapleford, to Mr. Wilbraham, and the other with the Utkinton estate to Mr. Arden. Duddon Hall, which continued to be the seat of a younger branch of the Dones long after the extinction of the elder branch, is now a farmhouse." [1]

However, one of the first records of the family was John de Donne, rector of the church of St. Elphin, Warrington, Lancashire from 1361 to 1362. [2]

John Donne (1572-1631), the famous English poet and cleric was born in London into a recusant Roman Catholic family when practice of that religion was illegal in England. His father was of Welsh descent and a warden of the Ironmongers Company in the City of London. Young John studied at the University of Cambridge, but was unable to obtain a degree because of his Catholicism. Despite these challenges, he rose to become one of the most important poets of his era and had to write anti-Catholic polemics to do so. Eventually he was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity from Cambridge University.

Early History of the Donn family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Donn research. Another 242 words (17 lines of text) covering the years 1086, 1420, 1503, 1527, 1552, 1558, 1572, 1604, 1614, 1617, 1621, 1631, 1662 and 1821 are included under the topic Early Donn History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Donn Spelling Variations

One relatively recent invention that did much to standardize English spelling was the printing press. However, before its invention even the most literate people recorded their names according to sound rather than spelling. The spelling variations under which the name Donn has appeared include Done, Donn, Donne, Doan, Doane, Doune and others.

Early Notables of the Donn family

Notables of this surname at this time include:

  • Sir John Donne (c.1420-1503), a Welsh courtier, diplomat and soldier, a notable figure of the Yorkist party; and Sir Charles Doune of Doune
  • Gabriel Donne or Dunne (d. 1558), was a Cistercian monk who belonged to the family of that name seated at Ralph Donue in Devonshire. [3]
  • John Donne the Elder (1572-1631), was an English poet, satirist, lawyer and a cleric in the Church of England. Born in London, he was Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London (1621-1631.) His poems survi...
  • Sir Daniel Donne or Dunn (d. 1617), was an Welsh civilian, descended from John Dwnn of Radnorshire, was educated at Oxford

United States Donn migration to the United States +

At this time, the shores of the New World beckoned many English families that felt that the social climate in England was oppressive and lacked opportunity for change. Thousands left England at great expense in ships that were overcrowded and full of disease. A great portion of these settlers never survived the journey and even a greater number arrived sick, starving, and without a penny. The survivors, however, were often greeted with greater opportunity than they could have experienced back home. These English settlers made significant contributions to those colonies that would eventually become the United States and Canada. An examination of early immigration records and passenger ship lists revealed that people bearing the name Donn arrived in North America very early:

Donn Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Donn, (Doune), aged 25, who arrived in New England in 1635 aboard the ship "Defence" [4]
  • Clement Donn, aged 22, who arrived in Virginia aboard the ship "Primrose" in 1635 [5]
  • Clemt Donn, who landed in Virginia in 1639 [4]
  • Arthur Donn, who arrived in Virginia in 1643 [4]
  • Joan Donn, who landed in Virginia in 1664 [4]
Donn Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Timothy Donn, who arrived in Virginia in 1704 [4]

New Zealand Donn migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Donn Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Alexander Donn, (b. 1812), aged 67, Scottish farmer, from Caithness travelling from Clyde aboard the ship "Nelson" arriving in Invercargill, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 28th August 1879 [6]
  • Mr. John Donn, (b. 1862), aged 17, Scottish farm servant, from Caithness travelling from Clyde aboard the ship "Nelson" arriving in Invercargill, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 28th August 1879 [6]

West Indies Donn migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [7]
Donn Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Mr. John Donn, (b. 1621), aged 14, British settler travelling aboard the ship "The Dorset" arriving in Barbados in September 1635 [8]
  • Mr. William Donn, (b. 1613), aged 22, British settler traveling aboard the ship "Matthew" arriving in St Christopher (Saint Kitts) in 1635 [9]

Contemporary Notables of the name Donn (post 1700) +

  • James Donn (1758-1813), English botanist, a pupil of William Aiton (1731-1793), the king's gardener at Kew [10]
  • Benjamin Donn or Donne (1729-1798), English mathematician, born at Bideford, Devonshire where his father and brother Abraham (1718-1746) kept a school [10]
  • Rob Donn MacAoidh (1714-1778), Scottish Gaelic poet
  • Donn Cambern (1929-2023), American Academy Award nominated film editor, known for his work on Easy Rider (1969) and Romancing the Stone (1984), The Bodyguard (1992) and Ghostbusters II (1989), recipient of the American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award in 2004
  • Donn B. Murphy (1930-2022), American theatre and speech teacher for Georgetown University and theatrical advisor, founding member of the National Theatre Corporation (1974)
  • Donn Alan Pennebaker (1925-2019), American documentary filmmaker, a pioneer of Direct Cinema
  • General Donn A. Starry, American Army officer, Commander of the Armor Center and the Armor School, Commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (1977)
  • Donn Fulton Eisele (1930-1987), American astronaut, Commander of Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo space flight in October 1968 [11]
  • Donn Conner Fendler (1926-2016), American author and public speaker
  • Donn Swaby (b. 1973), American actor, best known for his role on the television soap opera Passions

The Donn Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Omnia mei dona Dei
Motto Translation: All my goods are the gift of God.

  1. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. 'Townships: Scarisbrick', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1907), pp. 265-276. British History Online [accessed 21 January 2017].
  3. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  4. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  5. Pilgrim Ship's of 1600's Retrieved January 6th 2023, retrieved from
  6. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  8. Pilgrim Ship Lists Early 1600's retrieved 29th September 2021. Retrieved from
  9. Pilgrim Ship's of 1600's (Retrieved October 4th 2021 from
  10. Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 30 June 2020
  11. NASA Astronauts Homepage. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) Donn Eisele. Retrieved from on Facebook