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An excerpt from archives copyright 2000 - 2016

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.


The surname Dunham was 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. Wilmslow in Cheshire was an ancient family seat for the family. "The church is a handsome and very ancient structure in the decorated and later English styles, with a square tower; it comprises a nave, chancel, and two aisles, of which the east end of one and the west end of the other are inclosed as sepulchral chapels, for the families of Dunham and Trafford." [1] 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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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 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 United States in the 18th Century

  • John Dunham, who arrived in Maryland in 1747

Dunham Settlers in 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

Dunham Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Ms. Mary Dunlap U.E. who arrived at Port Roseway [Shelburne], Nova Scotia on October 26, 1783 was passenger number 331 aboard the ship "HMS Clinton", picked up on September 28, 1783 at Staten Island, New York
  • Mr. Benjamin Dunn U.E. who settled in Belle Vue, Beaver Harboutr, Charlotte County, New Brunswick c. 1783
  • Mr. Daniel Dunham U.E. (b. 1730) born in Woodstock, New Jersey, USA who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784 married to Catharine Campbell c. 1746 they had 6 children he died before 1821
  • Mr. David Elson Dunham U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784
  • Mr. Isaac Dunham U.E. who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784

Dunham Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • William Dunham, who arrived in Canada in 1836
  • Alfred Dunham, who landed in Esquimalt, British Columbia in 1862


  • Ransom Williams Dunham (1838-1896), American politician, U.S. Representative from Illinois (1883-1889)
  • Mark Wentworth Dunham (1842-1899), American importer and breeder of horses
  • Michael Dunham (b. 1972), retired American professional ice hockey goaltender, current goal-tending coach for the New York Islanders
  • Lena Dunham (b. 1986), American filmmaker and four-time Emmy Award and two-time Golden Globe nominated actress
  • Jonathan Singletary Dunham (1640-1724), American settler of Woodbridge, New Jersey, who built the first gristmill in New Jersey
  • Jeffrey "Jeff" Dunham (b. 1962), American ventriloq Uist and stand-up comedian; ranked him as the third highest-paid comedian in the United States (2008-2009)
  • Jason Lee Dunham (1981-2004), American Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, eponym of the destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109)
  • Cyrus Livingston Dunham (1817-1877), American Civil War Colonel, U.S. Representative from Indiana (1849-1855)
  • 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
  • Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-1995), American anthropologist, mother of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States



  • 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. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  2. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  3. Shirley, Evelyn Philip. Noble and Gentle Men of England Or Notes Touching The Arms and Descendants of the Ancient Knightley and Gentle Houses of England Arranged in their Respective Counties 3rd Edition. Westminster: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1866. Print.
  4. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  5. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  6. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1790. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  7. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin . Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  8. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  9. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  10. 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).
  11. ...

The Dunham Family Crest was acquired from the 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 2 March 2016 at 14:48.

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