Origin of the Dalls


What, and where, are the origins of the Dalls?


Origin of the Dalls: The Name


“Dall” is a common name in parts of Scotland and also in Denmark, where the variant “Dahl” is also common. However, most of these pronounce the name with a long “a” (as in “ah”).

Bill Dall travelled to Scotland in 1979. There he found places in the western highlands where they pronounced the name in the way we do, with the short “a”.


The he knew he was close to the home of his ancestors…

From Bill Dall’s research:


Dall is a gaelic word with two distinct sets of pronunciations and meanings. Pronounced “daool” it means (noun) a blind person or as an adjective meaning “blind”, or more figuratively to be blinded or dazzled as by light. Hence “dallanach” = blind drunk. Ian Dall Mackay was supposed to have been a famous 17th century blind piper who founded the school of piping.


Pronounced as spelt with a short “a” it means a meadowland. Thus “dallas” = house in the meadows. There is a Dall Lodge at the western end of Loch Tay, the builder being a farmer who owned a Dall Farm further down the loch. There is a Dall House, now part of Rannoch School on Loch Rannoch. The area (?former village) is marked on the map as Dall and has an old water mill. Dall House was built by George Duncan Robertson about 1850. He was Clan Chief of the Robertsons, but sold it after a few years (probably could not afford it!). There is also a small area (or house) on Loch Etive called Dall. Probably all these three locality names refer to the meadowland meaning. All are in the Highlands.


Origin of the Dalls: Our Family


The Arbroath Dalls

Bill Dall traced his branch of the Dall family back to  Thomas Dall, born in 1811 (or possibly 1812) in Arbroath, Scotland.


He comments on his research:


According to the New Zealand newspapers, Thomas Dall was born in Arbroath in 1911. I searched the parish register of births for Thomas Dall while in Edinburgh in August 1979, but did not find any record of birth for Thomas Dall. Later in 1982, Ian Dall also searched parish records with similar negative results. There were plenty of other Dalls before this date and I traced them back to a William Dall and a George Dall, who were both married in Arbroath in the mid-eighteenth century. They were related, probably brothers, but did not produce a Thomas Dall. There were three William Dalls, but none could have been possible fathers of Thomas. Thomas could have been illegitimate, but if the birth was recorded it would have been obvious as they made such a fuss about illegitimacy in those days.


My explanation is that he was born in another parish.


The persistence of William as a given name in our family may be a pointer. The George Dall line goes back to James Dall, married in 1790. They could have produced Thomas 21 years later, but it seems unlikely. James Dall II (who was a sailor) was married in 1816 and produced another James, so this rules him out as an ancestor. A Mr. Dall (? James ?George) was first mate on the Tamar which was wrecked on the heads of Otago Harbour in 1862.. The William Dalls were weavers and Thomas Dall was in the weaving business, which again points to a linkage. The weaving may indicate the origins of the Dalls on Loch Rannoch, whose valley leads into Loch Tay. In the eighteenth century flax was grown and woven extensively in Scotland, water mills being used for the purpose. It is plausible that the weavers of Dall village could have acquired the name.Evelyn Dall


There were a large number of Dalls born in Arbroath in the nineteenth century, but there was only one in the phone book in 1979. There are many Dalls in Dundee and Edinburgh, probably all descendants. Some migrated to Canada and USA. There was a W.H. Dall who was a well-known zoologist who could have been related. The Dall Sheep is named after him. Evelyn Dall was a U.S. crooner (see press cutting) descended from the Arbroath Dalls.


Next: Thomas Dall and his family


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