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Our 2,940 members have registered
2,500 study surnames with us
and a further 6,342 variant names.
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About the study

A One Name Study relating to the DUNBABIN and DONBAVAND names and their variants, such as DUNBOBBIN.
The study came about because of the difficulty I had joining my branch of the Donbavand family to other branches with the same surname. By the time I had sorted out this problem, I had accumulated a large amount of data about others with the names. I have been keeping information about the names since I started my family history research in early 2002.

Variant names

The variants with family members currently living in the UK are:
  • DUNBABIN This appears to be the earliest form of the name, and its most common variant in the records. There were 119 people with the name in 2002, according to the Office for National Statistics.*
  • DONBAVAND This is the name as I first came across it. One of my great grandmothers was born a Donbavand. The variant originates in Warrington, but some family members took it to Manchester, with some moving on from there to the West Riding of Yorkshire. 249 people in 2002.*
  • DUNBAVAND An intermediate form. B and V are very similar in sound. 79 People.*
  • DUNBAVIN This variant is now the most frequent - more than twice as common as DUNBABIN. 282 people.*
  • DUNBOBIN The conversion of the central 'A' into an 'O' allows a link to be made with the textile industry. Now extinct.
  • DUNBOBBIN Doubling up makes the link stronger, and also follows normal english rules. 92 people.*
  • DUNBEBIN A minor vowel change. 50 people.*
  • DUNDAVAN This variant stems from a single family who moved to the Ashton-under-Lyne and Dukinfield area. 40 people.*
  • DUNBAVAN Losing the D from the end is quite understandable. 23 people in 2002.*
  • DUNBEVAND Only a minor change of pronunciation. 8 people in 2002.*
  • DUNABIN Loss of the first B by one branch. 9 people in 2002.*

 * The figures for surname frequency are derived from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and were made available by Technoleg Taliesin Cyf, on the website

Name origin

The consensus among surname origin researchers is that the surname Dunbabin is derived from Dunn, meaning dark or swarthy, and Babin, a pet name derived from the personal name Robin.
The apparently similar surname Donovan seems to be unconnected, being of Irish origin.
The vast majority of early references to people with the surname Dunbabin are from the area around Warrington, which was on the border of Lancashire and Cheshire, but is now administered as part of Cheshire. Nearly all the variants of the name are still found in the Warrington area.

History of the name

Thomas Charles Dunbabin (1883-1973) was a Rhodes Scholar in 1906 then became a journalist and toured the world, lecturing on Australia on behalf of the Australian government.
His son Thomas James Dunbabin (1911-1955) was field commander for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Crete during World War II. He had published academic work about ancient Greece before the war.
William Dunbavin (c1770-1840) was the person who collected the body of Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone after his death in prison in 1798. The maiden name of William's mother was Tone.
Ian Dunbavin is a professional footballer who spent several years as goalkeeper for Accrington Stanley.
Joseph Donbavand (1757-1831) was the Writing Master at Ackworth, a prominent Quaker school near Pontefract, Yorkshire. He published a set of writing exercises in the early 19th century.
Tommy Donbavand is the author of a series of children's books.
Ray Dunbobbin (1931-1998) was a writer and actor, involved in 'Z-Cars', 'The Liver Birds' and 'Brookside'.

Distribution of the name

The name appears to originate in the area around Warrington on the Lancashire and Cheshire border, and most holders of the surname and its variants are still within 20 miles of there.
There are, though, branches of the family all over the world. The largest overseas contingent is in Australia, being descendants of John Dunbabin (1806-1897), found guilty of horse stealing in 1830. John worked hard and became a major landholder and a pillar of the community.


As I have spent all my working life in the computer industry, I have not succumbed to the usual temptation to keep large amounts of data in filing cabinets. The master copy of my data is held electronically, using the commercial product 'The Master Genealogist' (unfortunately no longer available). This allows all types of data to be organised. Data starting out on paper, such as BMD certificates, are scanned and held electronically. When researching at record offices, transcriptions are taken straight onto a laptop rather than via a piece of paper which would introduce extra errors, as those who have seen my handwriting would testify.
What seems to me to be a large amount of data has been accumulated over the years. Birth, Marriage and Death registrations have been extracted from the GRO and other indexes.
Where possible, the data has been organised into family groups. A few of these groups go back before 1700. It seems to be the recent data which is most difficult to join together, as there is a tendency for couples to marry abroad, not to marry at all, or to remarry following divorce.
In common with most researchers, the cost of certificates means that I end up with gaps in family groups. Spending money on a certificate for a child who died in infancy just to find out who the parents were is something of a luxury, so other data is used where possible. The recent addition to the GRO website of a search including the mother's maiden name resolve quite a few puzzles.
Parish records are continually being added to my database, and occasionally this allows the family groups to be extended.