Dawson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Dawson Meaning
The given name David, from the


meaning “beloved of Jehovah,” became
popular through the fame of St. David, the patron saint of Wales, and
several early Kings of Scotland of that name.
The pet form of David, Dawe, appeared in Lancashire in 1212 and
that form came the surname Dawson.
Dawson was a surname found in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Other patronymic names from David – such as Davidson and Davison –
turned up in Scotland and the Border country. Davies of course is
a common
Welsh surname.

Dawson Resources on

Dawson Ancestry

Dawson lines claimed descent from the time of William the Conqueror –
Dawsons of Spaldington in Yorkshire from the Norman adventurer Sir Marmaduke
and the Dawsons of Greystoke in Cumberland from
Archibald Dawson, a
Saxon lord at that time or somewhat later.
Were they real or imaginary figures? A more
creditable historical figure was Bertram Dawson of Greystoke who
accompanied the Black Prince to France during the wars there in the
mid-14th century.

One family line began with Roger Dawson who was born in Penrith,
Cumberland in 1531. He moved to Thanet in Kent when he was
a young man and his descendants remained there through fifteen

The largest number of Dawsons, however, have been in Yorkshire.
The first record of a Dawson was in fact that of Thomas
in the Wakefield manor rolls in Yorkshire of 1326. Dawson
sightings have been mainly in north Yorkshire:

  • the
    Dawson name began to appear in records in the Grewelthorpe area from the
  • Richard
    Dawson was recorded at Heworth in 1588. Later Dawsons of this
    family served in the army in India.
  • a
    Dawson family has held Langcliffe Hall near Settle since the 1660’s and
    still resides there. William Dawson of this family became a
    successful linen merchant in London in the 1760’s, married well, and
    resided in some splendour in Richmond.
  • the
    Rev. Joseph Dawson, a Unitarian minister, helped to found the Low Moor
    ironworks near Bradford in 1789. His grandson Christopher later
    came into possession of Weston Hall near Otley.
  • while
    was a well-known figure in Harrogate in the late 19th

Dawson, who became editor of The
in the inter-war years, was born in Skipton in north

Ireland. English
Dawsons have
been in Ireland since 1610:

  • The
    first arrival, from Sowerby in Westmoreland, came to Derry and
    purchased the
    lands of what was to be Castle Dawson in 1633. These
    Dawsons later settled in county
    Monaghan and became the Earls of Cremorne and Dartrey.
  • William
    Dawson arrived
    in Yorkshire
    a tax collector in the reign of Charles II. His
    son Ephraim acquired the Portarlington
    estate in Queens (Laios) county and the family was later made Earl of
  • another
    Dawson family
    came tot the Glen of Aherlow
    Tipperary in the late 1600's and remained landlords there until the
    early 20th

have been some Irish Dawsons in Donegal. The
name was adopted at the time of the Penal
Laws for some like-sounding Gaelic names.

Scotland. Davidson and
Davison have tended to be the spellings
in Scotland. But Dawson, possibly originally Deason, is to be
found – mainly in NE Scotland. The
Dawsons of Crombie were an old family from Aberdeen from whom Sir
William Dawson of Canada came
. Many Dawsons were
listed in
Strathdon parish in Aberdeenshire in the mid-19th century.


Charles Dawson’s 1874 book Dawson Family Records
provided an early and exhaustive record of early Dawson
arrivals, from New England to Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas.

According to family lore, four Dawson
brothers arrived in Virginia from Whitehaven in Cumberland sometime
around 1670. Being Puritan they were
classified as
dissenters. Therefore they departed for
Maryland where they made their home.
Descendants of the brother most tracked, John, fought in the
Revolutionary War and moved west, first to Ohio and then to Indiana.

Dawson was an Anglican priest and welcome in Virginia.
Thought to be from Cumberland, he arrived in
Virginia in 1735 and twenty years later became President of William and
College. But his position there soon
deteriorated due to his drunken habits.
Meanwhile Captain Anthony Dawson was in the Albemarle Sound area
North Carolina by 1693 and Dawsons were later recorded nearby in

There were Dawsons in Richmond
county, Georgia by 1780, either from Virginia or North Carolina. Dread Dawson left there for Alabama where he
had a large plantation and then moved onto what became Jasper county,
Texas. Brit
made the same journey as a young man and subsequently
became a large cattle rancher in Navarro county,

Dawson family of Greene
county, Georgia began with a British soldier who deserted and joined
American ranks during the Revolutionary War.
He and his wife Ruth moved to Greene county, Georgia soon after
it was
formed. Their son Thomas was born there
in 1794, the first white child in that county.
A younger son William C.

was a much respected US Senator for Georgia, after whom
Dawson county and the town of Dawson were named.

Canada. Thomas Dawson,
born and brought up in county Monaghan, came with his family to Prince
Island in 1801 and founded Dawson’s Grove by the head of the
Hillsborough river. He
did not last long in his new country.
But his family did and the Dawson name continues in
Charlottetown with
the Dawson house built there in 1852.

James Dawson had come to Pictou in Nova Scotia from Banffshire
in Scotland in 1811. He struggled with his early enterprises but
eventually was the proprietor of the local newspaper. His son
John William, born in 1820, became one of Canada’s foremost scholars
and Principal of McGill University in Montreal for some forty years;
while his son George achieved renown as a
surveyor and gave his name to
Dawson Creek in British Columbia and Dawson City in the Yukon.

Scots Dawsons, this time from Aberdeen, embarked for Montreal in the
1840’s. John Dawson eventually made his
home in
Williams county, Ontario. Benjamin and Janet
Dawson, also from the Aberdeen area, came to Niagara, Ontario
around 1850.

Australia and New Zealand.
In 1830 Elijah Dawson from Kent, leaving the British army, was a very
settler in the Swan river colony that became Western Australia.

the son of a well-to-do London draper, had married an Irish woman and
father had disowned him. So the couple
departed for Tasmania in 1833 with their baby daughter.

William’s brother drowned his father
wrote to him and forgave him, asking him to come back to inherit his
estate. But William had not forgotten
his hurt and refused to go.”

The family
later moved to Southland, New Zealand where William was the town
responsible for building many of the bridges in the locality.

A Dawson family on
North Island, near Auckland, began when a young cabin boy from Sweden
ship and landed on the Mahurangi East Peninsula sometime in the 1850’s. He took the name of John Dawson.
The Dawsons in the form of Brian Dawson, his
great grandson, are still there on Snells Beach.


Dawson Miscellany

Sir Marmaduke D’Ossone and the English/Irish Dawsons.  According to Burke’s Peerage, Dawsons in England and Ireland claimed descent from Sir Marmaduke D’Ossone, a soldier of
fortune who
accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066.
For services rendered in battle he was said
to have received a grant of an estate in England and to have remained
there for
the rest of his life.  It was said that the original seat of the
was in
the county of York.

Many generations later came Alexander Dawson who lived at Spaldington in Yorkshire in 1584.  The line from him passed to William Dawson who came to Ireland as a tax collector in the reign of Charles II.  His son Ephraim acquired the Portarlington estate in Queens (Laios) county and the family was later made Earl of Portarlington.

Early Dawsons in the Grewelthorpe Area.  The following Dawson families were recorded in the Grewelthorpe area
of north Yorkshire in the 1500’s and 1600’s:

Gilbert Dawson of Azerley Hall near Ripon (1535?-1587) and Catherine

– son George (born in 1558) who married Margaret Conyers
(they were believed on have come originally from Cumberland)

George Dawson of Grewelthorpe (1625?-1672) and Judith (died in 1657)

– son Richard (born in 1656)

John Dawson of Pateley Bridge (1635?-1688) and wife (unknown)

– son John of Ripon (born in 1659)
– son Christopher of Ripon (born in 1661)

Thomas and Ann Dawson (married in Ripon in 1660)
– Thomas of Ripon (born in 1663)

Charles Dawson of Grewelthorpe (1645?-1696) and Anne
– George Dawson (born in 1675)

Richard Dawson, yeoman of Grewelthorpe (died in 1693)

George, Charles and Richard Dawson appeared on the Wapentake hearth tax list of 1672.

George Dawson of Harrogate.  George Dawson
was a prominent personality in Harrogate in the late 19th century.  As alderman he added materially to the
of the town.  He built the Post Office
buildings, known as Prospect Crescent, Cambridge Crescent, rebuilt the
Hotel, the Crown block, and some of the finest residences.  A passionate Methodist preacher of the
hell-fire school, Dawson himself threw drunks and hecklers from his
and allowed nothing to stand in the way of his plans to beautify

However, on the eve of him becoming Mayor of
Harrogate in 1889, he died of overwork at his mansion, Vanderbilt
Court, in
Victoria Avenue.  Today a plaque there
his life and achievements.

On the Death in 1737 of James Dawson of Aherlow.  The
Dawsons had come to the Glen of Aherlow in county Tipperary in the 17th century.  They were the local landlords, often
resented.  Colonel James Dawson of Ahelow
died in 1737 and the poet Sean
Clarach Mac Domhnaill of Rathluirc composed
some satirical verses on his death.
They began as follows:

a chlocha, fe choigilt i gcoimead criaidh,
Ann feailairefola, is an
stollaire Dason liath.”

down his bones, o ye stones, in your
hall of clay,
You reeking, gore-sprinkled boar, old Dawson the grey.”

poet was
forced to leave the district after the verses came out.

Dawsons were still landlords in the 19th century and still
unpopular.  But this time the anger was
directed at their agent, “limping” Tommy Saunders.
The Dawson home at Ballincourty House was
destroyed at the time of the Irish Civil War.

Sir William Dawson’s Forebears in Scotland.  Sir William
Dawson, the great 19th century Canadian scholar, gave the following
account of
his family history in Scotland:

father’s people were agriculturists in the
north of Scotland, connected with an old family, the Dawsons of
Crombie, but,
being descended from a younger branch, were themselves of the class of
well-to-do tenant farmers.

tradition was that the family originated with an
Irish officer who had come over in the interests of James the Second,
and who,
when the effort to excite a rising in favor of the exiled king had
consoled himself by marrying a Scottish maiden dowered with some landed
property.  He was a Roman Catholic and
the family continued for some generations to adhere to the old faith
and to
Jacobite politics.

grandfather was said to have been present as a stripling
on the side of the Pretender at Culloden Moor but, having escaped that
dangerous day, afterwards married a Protestant wife, and in his later
days went
over to her religion.  Their children
were educated as Presbyterians.”

Irish connection seems unlikely.   It
may not have been his grandfather but his
great grandfather who was present at Culloden on that fateful day in

Thomas Dawson, Methodist Preacher.  It was
said that during his younger days Thomas Dawson had been “wild and
profane.”  Then he read Doddridge’s Rise and Progress and realized the error
of his ways.  It is not exactly sure when
he became a convert of John and Charles Wesley’s Methodism.  However, convert he did and he was soon a

He had joined in the British army in Ireland, serving as a young man
in the American Revolutionary War.  When
that employment ended in 1799, he began to think about emigrating.

On March 4,
1801 Thomas and his family set sail from Dublin and finally reached
destination of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island some three months
later.  Once settled there, Thomas felt
that the spiritual destitution of the Island was so great that he
should set
out to become the first local preacher in the colony.
During 1801 and the following years, prayer
meetings were held regularly in Charlottetown and on Christmas Day
Thomas would
preach in the Coffee House.

An interesting diary note of his friend Benjamin
Chappell for July 1, 1803 raised the following question:
“Mr. Dawson, was he drunk with Mr. Palmer or not?”
Maybe the preacher did slip back temporarily
into the wildness of his pre-conversion days and went on a “bender”
with Mr. Palmer.  However, the diary
indicated that conditions did improve during October and November.

Thomas Dawson
was a man of strong constitution and powerful frame.
But he could not long sustain the rigorous
tests to which he subjected himself.  In
December 1803 he was seized by a severe cold which terminated in quinsy.  On January 22, 1804, though very ill, he
walked from Charlottetown to his home at the Head of Hillsborough.  Benjamin Chappell was with him for his last
days.  Thomas Dawson died six weeks later
on March 4.

William Crosby Dawson of Greene County, Georgia.  William Crosby Dawson of Greene county, Georgia
was called “the first gentleman of Georgia.”  He was described as follows by a contemporary:

“He was a man of much suavity of
one of that class of Southern statesmen who felt it necessary to carry
measure by the influence of personal kindness, and an expression of
horror at
all agitation of the slave question, under the apprehension that it
dissolve the Union.”

The following
marker was erected at the Greene county courthouse in Greensboro in
commemorating his life as a Freemason:

“A native of Greene county, then
on Georgia’s Indian frontier, he was educated in the law and admitted
to the Bar in 1818.   The remainder of his exemplary life was
spent in public service as legislator, captain of the Volunteers in the
Indian War in Florida in 1836, judge of the Oolmugee judicial circuit,
Congressman, and US Senator from Georgia from 1849 to 1855.

Brother Dawson served as Grand
Master of the Masons in Georgia from 1843 until his death in Greensboro
in 1856.  Two cities and one county in Georgia are named for
him.  Also named in his honor are two Masonic lodges.

One of the most beloved, respected
and distinguished Grand Masters in Georgia’s long Masonic history, his
honored remains lie in the city cemetery near this spot.  His
entire life was a testimonial to his devotion to his fellow man, his
country, and to the sublime precepts of Freemasonry.  His name
will always be revered by the Freemasons of Georgia.”

Brit Dawson of Dawson, Texas.  Brit Dawson
gave his name to Dawson, Texas.  He was a
cattle rancher and was said to have had the largest herd of cattle in
all of
Navarro county.  He died in 1903 and was
buried beside his wife Susannah in the family cemetery just north of
Big House.”

Brit had eighty six exciting years and had witnessed
changes he could never have imagined as a child.
He had lived in the territory of Alabama,
Mexican territory, the Republic of Texas, and in the thirty-eighth
state of the
United States, Texas.  His father had fought in the War of 1812
and he had
joined Sam Houston’s army and fought Indians.  He had driven ox
carts and
ridden trains pulled by huge steam locomotives.


Dawson Names

  • William C. Dawson
    was a US Senator from
    Georgia in the 1850’s known for his courtly southern manners. 
  • Sir William Dawson was
    a leading Canadian scholar of the mid-19th century who became the
    Principal of McGill University in Montreal. 
  • Geoffrey Dawson, born Geoffrey Robinson,
    was the influential pro-appeasement editor of The Times
    between 1923 and 1941. 
  • Les Dawson was a non-PC English comedian known for his podgy face and jokes about mothers-in-law.

Select Dawson Numbers Today

  • 52,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 31,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 37,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Dawson and Like Surnames  

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “son” suffix is more common in northern England than in the south and in lowland Scotland.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.




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