Dickinson Surname Meaning & Origin

Select Dickinson Meaning
Dick is an abbreviation of Richard (it
is said that some of the native English could not get their mouth
around the Norman “R” and “R” became “D” or “H”
instead). Maybe this applied particularly to the folks in the
north. Dixon and its diminutive Dickinson are common surnames of
the north. Dickin and Dickens do crop up in the West
Midlands. But the possible southern candidate Dicks is not that
common at all.

Dickinson Resources on

Dickinson Ancestry

Dickinson is a north country name. Early Dickinsons came from
Yorkshire. A Dickinson family from Hull dates from the 1400’s and
as Dykonsons possibly back to
1260. During the 1500’s they lived at Kenson Manor near Leeds and
at Bradley Hall in south Staffordshire. A Quaker family of
Dickinsons lived at Birds Edge in the West Ridings from the 17th
century. There were also Dickinson Quakers in the East Ridings at
this time.

Dickinsons have been numerous in Cumberland as well. Dickinson
estate records at Lamplugh near Cockermouth date from 1601, first at
Streetgate and then at Red How. Dickinsons have farmed in the
Lyth valley for almost as long.

London. Some
well-known Dickinsons have come from London. These included
Charles Dickinson and his son Walter who carried the family’s arms to
Virginia. John Dickinson was brought up in
London and trained as
a stationer there. In 1809 he invented a
continuous mechanized process for papermaking and started a paper
mill in Hertfordshire. This was the forerunner of the John
stationery company. Joan Evans’ 1955 book The Endless Web
described the history of John Dickinson & Co from its startup years.

Joseph Dickinson, originally from
Northumberland, operated a stationery and lithography publishing
business on
Bond Street in London in the early 1800’s.
His son Lowes Cato Dickinson became a well-known Victorian
painter; his nephew John, also a portrait painter, made his home in
California. One of Lowes’s sons Arthur,
later knighted, was an accountant of high repute; another son
Goldsworthy or Goldie
a pacifist in World War One and a member of the Bloomsbury set.

America. Dickinson is most notably a New England name .

New England.
Dickinson was among the colonists who had left England in 1629 on the
Winthrop fleet, settled in Wethersfield, and later removed to

  • his descendants, via his son Samuel, came to Amherst in
    the 1740’s, helped
    found Amherst College and included in their number a century later the
    poet Emily
  • Oliver
    Dickinson, from another line via his son Thomas, migrated west to
    Randolph township, Ohio in the
    early 1800’s. Alpheus Dickinson of Randolph township was notable
    for having six wives.

Captain John Dickinson was a Quaker sea captain who had first arrived in Boston
from Ely in
Cambridgeshire in 1630. However,
encountering religious persecution there, he resettled thirty years
later in
Oyster Bay on Long Island. His line was
in Marguerite Dickinson’s 1968 book Descendants of Captain John
and Elizabeth Howland

Jonathan Dickinson, the first president of Princeton
College, was born in Hatfield, Massachusetts in 1688.
His parents came from pioneer Connecticut valley stock. Ebenezer Dickinson
from Hatfield migrated to Litchfield,
Connecticut and from his line came Oliver Dickinson, the architect of
Church in Milton, and his son Anson, a nationally known painter of

Walter Dickinson
had emigrated to Virginia in 1654 and, having joined the
Quaker movement, moved with others of that faith to Kent county,
Delaware. The family land-holdings increased with each generation
so that, by the time of his great grandson John Dickinson of
Revolutionary times, they had become extremely wealthy. Dickinson
in Pennsylvania was named in honor of John Dickinson.

Canada. It
is thought likely that the Loyalist
Dickinsons from Dutchess county, New York were descended from Captain
Dickinson of Oyster Bay. Amos Dickinson
was the head of nine Dickinsons who came to New Brunswick at the
conclusion of
the Revolutionary War.

Another New York
Dickinson family, that of Barnabus Dickinson (a descendant of immigrant
Nathaniel Dickinson), migrated to Cornwall, Ontario in 1827. Barnabus died of cholera five years later. But his son Moss established a business
transporting goods along the Rideau Canal between Ottawa and Kingston. Locals started to call him “the King of the
Rideau.” He began a grist mill at
Manotick on the banks of the Rideau in 1860 which remained with the
family until 1929.

Frank Dickinson and
his family arrived in Canada from Bolton in Lancashire in 1910. They eventually settled in Summerland,
British Columbia where they started an apple orchard.
It remains with their family today.


Dickinson Miscellany

Early Dickinsons.  The first Dickinson mention was a William Dykouson who appeared in the
Lancashire subsidy rolls of 1366.   Subsequent Dickinsons
with their different spellings were:

  • John Dykonesson, in 1388 in Yorkshire
  • Henry Dicason, in 1518 in Yorkshire
  • Gilbert Dychenson, in 1585 in Yorkshire
  • and Nicholas Dikersone, in 1598 in Norfolk.

John Dickinson the Stationer.  John Dickinson the stationer was the holder of many patents
relating to paper and its use in the early 19th century..

His first was for a non-smouldering paper for use in rifles
called Cartridge Paper; said to have been particularly helpful to
Wellington’s Peninsular campaign and at Waterloo by increasing the
British firing rate whilst simultaneously reducing premature firing

His next was for a means of making paper in a continuous
sheet in what has become known as the Cylinder Mould machine.
Dickinson arranged financing to buy Apsley mill in 1809 and the nearby
Nash Mill in 1811 where he installed and developed machines of his
design which were producing some of the best and most consistent paper
in the country.

He was involved with the development of the Penny Post,
producing a paper containing silk threads for security purposes.
He also patented a method of slitting paper with sharp bevelled wheels,
still used on machines today and from which office guillotines in
common use have evolved.

In addition to his factories at Apsley and Nash he built two
brand new mills at Home Park and Croxley in 1825 and 1828.  Other
sites in Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere were created for
distribution.  He retired in 1858, handing over the running of the
business to his nephew John Evans.

Dickinson & Morris of Melton Mowbray.  Mary Dickinson is considered the creator of the
hand raised Melton Mowbray pork pie.  In the 1790’s she and her
family was already well known as pork pie makers and Stilton cheese

Mary’s grandson John, the son of a painter, was born in Melton
Mowbray in 1828 and began making pies as a young grocer.  In 1851
he rented a shop for his pies in Nottingham Street.  A year later
he married Sarah Collet, a farmer’s daughter, and they were to have
nine children.

Surprisingly none of
them entered the family business.  But an apprentice, Joseph
Morris, was taken on in 1886 and he became like a son to John
Dickinson. In 1901 a partnership between John Dickinson and Joseph
Morris was formed and the business became Dickinson & Morris.
It still flourishes today.

Captain John Dickinson’s Antecedents.  The ancestry of Captain John Dickinson who settled
in Long Island has been traced back a long way in England.
His forebears seem to have lived from an
early time near Hull in Yorkshire.  The
early spelling here may have been Decaen.

The first properly recorded in 1502 was William Dickinson
of Kenson
manor in Leeds, John’s great great grandfather.
The line then extended to Bradley Hall in Staffordshire, where
Dickinson served as a magistrate, and to the Portsmouth Navy Yard,
where Thomas
Dickinson was a Chief Clerk, and then to Ely in Cambridgeshire where
John Dickinson was born in 1602.

accounts of this Dickinson line in England were covered in Wharton
1883 book Record of the Lambert-Dickinson Family.

Emily Dickinson’s Lineage.  The poet Emily Dickinson was in the eighth generation of Dickinsons in
America.  The following were her American forebears:

  • Nathaniel the immigrant (1600-1676), born in England
    (Lincolnshire), died in Hadley Mass
  • Samuel (1638-1711), born in Wethersfield Conn, died in Hatfield
  • Ebenezer (1681-1730), born and died in Hatfield Mass
  • Nathan (1712-1796), born in Hatfield Mass. died in Amherst Mass
  • Nathan (1735-1825), born and died in Amherst Mass
  • Samuel (1775-1838), born in Amherst Mass, died in Hudson Ohio
  • Edward (1803-1874), born in Amherst Mass, died in Boston, Mass
  • and Emily (1830-1886), born and died in Amherst Mass.

The Homestead where Emily was born and lived most of her life and The
Evergreens, home of her brother and his family, share three acres of
the Dickinson property in the center of Amherst.  They have now
been preserved as the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Alpheus Dickinson and His Six Wives.  In the Congregational burying ground in Randolph
township, Ohio lie side by side the six deceased wives of Alpheus

The first wife on her
deathbed recommended to her husband Mary Roberts who, like herself, was
native of Middletown, Connecticut.  After
a proper time had elapsed, Alpheus started for New England, making the
journey on horseback, and brought back with him his second wife.  That lady soon died.  But
she did recommend another lady from
Middletown, Mary Johnson.  So he again
made the long journey to Connecticut to return with his third wife.  She died in 1832.  These
ladies, it transpired, were all

Giving up on Middletown, he
then married Maria Curtis of Charlestown, Ohio and she stayed with him
her death in 1864.  His fifth wife was
Martha Sears, her niece from the same town who lived for less than two
after they married.  The name of his
sixth wife was not reported, except that she existed.

Alpheus Dickinson, notwithstanding the great
afflictions he had been called upon to endure, used frequently to

have never been placed in circumstances so distressing and hopeless but
that I
could not think of someone whose situation was worse than mine.”

Dickinson College.  Dickinson College is a liberal arts college in
Carlisle, Pennsylvania originally
established in 1773 as a grammar school.  The College was
chartered in 1783, five days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris,
making it the first college to be founded in the newly recognized
United States.

Dickinson was founded by Benjamin Bush, a signer of the Declaration
of Independence and named in honor of a signer of the Constitution,
John Dickinson, who was later the President of Pennsylvania.
Dickinson College is America’s 16th oldest college.


Dickinson Names

  • John Dickinson was an
    American lawyer and politician, known as the “penman of the Revolution” for the role he played in constitutional matters at that time.
  • John Dickinson invented a
    continuous mechanized papermaking process in 1809 and founded a paper
    mill in Hertfordshire which was the forerunner of the John Dickinson Stationery company.
  • Emily Dickinson was a well-known 19th century American poet.
  • Angie Dickinson, born Angie Brown, is an American actress.

Select Dickinson Numbers Today

  • 16,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Cumbria)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Dickinson 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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