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The Don Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: NON DEERIT ALTER AUREUS (another golden branch will succeed)

Let me tell you about the historical background of your family name, Don. There are several possible origins for the Scottish surname Don. While we can rule out the Spanish honorific title, which some have claimed, there are other potential explanations. Don may have originated from various place names in Scotland with different linguistic roots. The Anglo-Saxon word ‘don’ or ‘dun’ referred to an open plain or valley, and similar place names can be found in the North of England and lowland Scotland (like Doncaster). In Brythonic (old Welsh) and Gaelic, the form ‘Dum,’ ‘Dun,’ or ‘Don’ often denoted the location of an ancient fort. For example, Dumbarton means “fort of the Britons,” and there are countless Dun place names throughout Scotland, such as Dunbar, Dunnottar, Dunkeld, and Duns.

Another possibility is that the name is connected to the River Don, which flows through Aberdeenshire and enters the sea at Old Aberdeen. The earliest mention of the river’s name, dating back to the second century AD, suggests that it originated from the name of a long-forgotten goddess. Some Don surnames may have emerged from individuals adopting the designation “de Don,” meaning “of Don,” referring to one of these places. Unfortunately, it is unclear which specific place is referenced. Alternatively, the word “Don” had a similar meaning in Old Gaelic and Old English, both referring to the color brown. Thus, several “le Don” surnames (meaning “the Brown”) indicate people with a dark complexion or dark hair. The name was common in the Mar district near Aberdeen, and a prominent family of this name owned lands in Monteith, Perthshire, which may suggest a connection to the River Don.

One notable family associated with the name Don is the family that produced Sir Alexander Don of Newton, later known as Newton Don, in Berwickshire. He was granted a Baronetcy of Nova Scotia on 7 June 1667. Sir Alexander Don (d. 1815), the Baronet, served as a soldier in the Southern Fencibles Regiment and later the Berwickshire Regiment. He married the sister and co-heir of the last of the Cunningham Earls of Glencairn. Their son, also named Alexander (1780-1826), held the position of Member of Parliament for Roxburghshire for many years. He also served as an officer in the Roxburgh militia and later in the Berwick Yeoman Cavalry. The family had connections with the Wauchopes of Niddrie, a prominent Edinburgh noble family in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Combining these two esteemed names, the family is now known as Don-Wauchopes, and the baronetcy title is still held by them, even though the family lands have passed into other hands.

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Family Crest Motto: NON DEERIT ALTER AUREUS (another golden branch will succeed)

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