History of the Dengate / Dungate Name


From all the available evidence it is highly likely that there is just one single Dengate / Dungate family who originated from the East  / West Sussex border in southern England.

The oldest of the three main Dengate branches is the Wittersham Tree, which commences around 1637 with Thomas Dengate (c.1637-1670) who, along with his wife, Anne established the Dengate family there.  Wittersham has without doubt the highest number of Dengate baptisms, marriages and burials in the world and there are still members of the Dengate family living in the small village today and evidence of the family exists in the churchyard, cemetery and buildings around the village.  The second oldest branch of the Dengate family is the Ticehurst Tree, which currently dates back to around 1703 with John Dengate (c.1703-1743).  The family flourished in Ticehurst until the 1950s and the family has many surviving Dengate descendants around Britain to this day.  Wittersham Tree has been proven to be linked to Ticehurst Tree via DNA, although so far no paper trail connects the two. 

Despite the deep-rooted connections to the villages of Wittersham and Ticehurst, it is highly unlikely that the family originated from these areas.  The origins of the Dengate name indisputably derives from the name Dungate, but, due to low levels of literacy and the heavy Sussex accent making pronunciation difficult to understand, it is not possible to determine exactly when the split between the two names occurred, although this was very approximately around 1600 and there are few, if indeed any references to the Dengates before this date.  The name is spelt in both ways throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with other spelling variants Dungett, Dungat and Dengat.

To date, no connection via traditional methods (i.e. parish registers) has been found between the Dengates and Dungates, but several DNA tests, ongoing since early 2006 have established a definite, 100% connection.

Ongoing investigations into the origins of the Dungate name place the earliest traces of the family to the East and West Sussex border, in and around the region of East Grinstead, where the Dungate name appears in the first pages of the parish registers from 1558 until well into the seventeenth century.  Many were reasonably well-off yeomans and farmers.  Their arrival in East Grinstead pre-dates the commencement of the church registers, so it is very difficult to know for certain whether the family originated from this area.  We do know that one Thomas Dungate was burnt at the stake on East Grinstead High Street on 18 July 1556 along with Anne Tree and John Foreman for holding Protestant views during the (Catholic) reign of Queen Mary.

Definition of the name Dengate

Much scientific research has been carried out around the world on DNA family groups and the results from the Dengate / Dungate tests showed that this family belong to the haplogroup E3b (marker M35), which only has a frequency in Britain of 1-5%.  To take the family line back as far as is currently known, it first appeared 20,000 years ago in the Middle East.  Descendants of this family were among the first farmers and helped spread agriculture from the Middle East into the Mediterranean region.  According to the National Geographic: At the end of the last  ice age around 10,000 years ago, the climate changed and became more conducive to plant production.  This probably helped spur the Neolithic Revolution, the point at which the human way of living changed from nomadic hunter-gathers to settled agriculturists.

The name Dungate could be either of topographical or locational origin.  If it were topographical in origin then it may be in some way connected to the small village in Kent called Dungate.  If it were locational in origin then it might mean 'Dun' as in hill and 'gate' as in a natural gap in the North Downs of Kent.

This is a preview - more information on the history of the Dengate name can be found in the March 2007 and in the March 2009 Dengate eJournals

Copyright N. Goodwin MMII