Dixon Surname Meaning, History & Origin
Dixon are patronyms (“sons of”) of Dick, a pet form of Richard – one
of the most popular names in England during the 11th and 12th centuries. Dickson is the spelling that has endured in
Scotland. The surname became Dixon in
England and that is now the more common form of the name.
Dixon Resources on
Dickson/Dixon One Name Study
Dickson/Dixon history and genealogy.
Scottish origins of the name.
- James Glenn Dickson MD
Dicksons from Scotland to Ireland and to Pennsylvania.
- Dixon DNA Project
Scotland. Thomas Dicson,
born in 1247 and the
son of Richard Keith, is generally considered the first to have adopted
Dickson name. His descendants held
Hazelside Place in Lanarkshire for many generations.
However, the Dickson name
soon migrated to the Scottish Borders and were to be found in
Peebleshire, dating from the 14th century
Berwickshire Alexander Nisbet
recorded in 1722 the Dicksons of Buhtrig (by then extinct) and
in Peebleshire the earliest recording (Dicson) was in 1338 and there
Dickson families of Winkston and Hudleshope. James
Dickson “of Havana” made a fortune in the West Indies
Seven Years War and bought Broughton in Peebles in 1764.
Dicksons as a
border clan were described in B. Homer Dickson’s 1884 book A
Shorter History of Clan Dickson.
John Dickson of Glasgow claimed
descent from the Buhtrig Dicksons and was the father of the Rev. David
the Moderator of the Scottish Assembly when it was broken up by
1653. His great grandson Sir Robert
Dickson of Inveresk was one of the founders of the Bank of Scotland. There were also Dickson lines here that went
to county Armagh in Ulster and thence to Pennsylvania.
Dickson family with later Ulster and American connections began with
Dickson, a Glasgow merchant originally from Stirlingshire.
His son David was a nonconformist minister,
his grandson Robert an ardent Covenanter who in 1666 had to flee
Ulster in 1666. Later Dicksons of this
family emigrated in the 1720’s to Connecticut.
One Dickson merchant family
from Edinburgh made its mark in Sweden.
Two sons of James Dickson, Edinburgh merchant, departed for
Robert in 1802 and James in 1809 – and became Swedish citizens. Baron Oscar Dickson of this family became a
rich Swedish industrial magnate in the mid 19th century, one of the
the country, and was a patron of many Arctic expeditions of that time.
England. Dickson may have been the
older spelling in
England, but the alternative Dixon spelling has taken over. Dixons outnumbered Dicksons in England by
almost ten to one in the 1891 census.
The name is primarily a north of England name.
Some of these Dixons were of
Scottish origin, dating back to the
1400’s and Furness Abbey in Lancashire.
Scottish connections, having graduated at Edinburgh in 1660, although
described there as an
e Northumbria. He was a nonconformist minister in northern
England, as were his son Thomas and his grandson Thomas.
The Dixons of Cockfield
in Durham were attached to the local coal-mining there.
They were first found at Raby nearby where
George Dixon was a steward at Raby castlein the 1650’s.
This George Dixon was a Quaker and imprisoned
for his beliefs. Later came two Dixon
- George Dixon who was a
successful coalmine owner in the area and a pioneer in the 1760’s in
the use of
coal gas to light homes (although one of his experiments led to the
his own house).
- and his younger brother Jeremiah
Dixon who was a surveyor
who became famous in America as the Dixon of the Mason-Dixon line. Drawn up in 1768, this line was said to be
the demarcation line between North and South in America.
still came Sir Raylton Dixon, a 19th century shipbuilding magnate at
Middlesborough on Teesside.
One Yorkshire family began with the marriage of
Joshua Dixon and Helen Dodson near Leeds around the year 1670. A later Dixon, Jeremiah Dixon, prospered as a
Leeds merchant and in 1764 was able to acquire Gledhow Hall
where he lived the life of a country squire.
Subsequent Dixons made their home at Astle Park in Cheshire. The Dixon
Arms in Chelford was a local landmark there.
Ireland. Early Dixons, known as Dyceson, were said to
have come to Ireland in the early 1500’s.
Edward Dixon was born in Meath in 1516.
He and many of his descendants were buried in the Dixon tomb in
church in Meath.
John Dickson meanwhile arrived in county Down from Scotland around
1690. Later came:
in Bally Castle, Antrim in 1770
his grandson Daniel Dixon, a prominent
merchant and shipowner of Larne in county Antrim in the late 19th
century. His descendants became Lord
or Dickson in Antrim and Derry could also be Irish in origin, an
version of the Gaelic
Two early Dixon
Quaker arrivals were:
Dixon from England who came first to Virginia and
then moved to Maryland in 1662 to escape religious persecution. His home became the first Quaker meeting
house in Maryland. He died in 1687 at
his plantation Dixon’s Choice. His
descendants today are numerous.
Henry and Rose Dixon from Armagh in Ireland who
came to New Castle county, Delaware sometime in the 1680’s. Henry, it was said, was an inn-keeper
there. Their son William had preceded
them to Maryland in 1676 and later returned in 1688.
He was a weaver by trade. A
descendant was Simon Dixon, the Quaker
pioneer in Cane Creek, North Carolina.
in America could be Scots or Scots Irish.
Among the Scots Irish were:
- the Dicksons of Chambersburg,
from the Rev. David Dickson)
- and the Dicksons of New London, Connecticut
(originally fleeing Covenanters).
Thomas Dickson from Scotland was an early
settler in the 1770’s in Ashe county, North Carolina.
John and Ann Dickson had arrived in Rowan county,
North Carolina from Pennsylvania in the 1750’s.
Their son Joseph fought in the Revolutionary War and later made
Andrew and Rachel Dixon meanwhile were Scots Irish who came to
Pennsylvania in 1764. Their descendants
moved to Belmont county in Ohio in the late 1790’s.
Dicksons of Onslow, Nova Scotia were
apparently Scots Irish, although Charles Dickson had come to Nova
Connecticut in the 1760’s. He was a
merchant, shipbuilder, farmer, and later a political figure in Nova
Scotia. Later Dicksons headed west to
California. The family history was
recorded in Emily Dewey’s 1953 book Dickson,
Charles Dixon and
his wife Susannah came to Nova Scotia from Yorkshire in 1772 and
Sackville, New Brunswick a year later.
was said that Charles Dixon was a
very prominent man in the early settlement there. He
owned herds of cattle and sheep. He was a
member of the legislature and
Justice of the Peace. He was a Methodist
and helped erect the first Methodist church in his locality.”
His son Charles moved
to Ohio, became a Mormon and, at the age of 89 and almost blind, set
his family for Salt Lake in 1854. He did
not make it. At Rock Island in Illinois,
he fell from the steps of his hotel and died.
Other early arrivals were from
Scotland. Three Dickson brothers from
Dumfries – Robert, William and Thomas – arrived in the Niagara district
Upper Canada in the 1780’s. Robert went
off on his own to become a fur trader and Indian agent.
He later had an adventurous War of 1812. The
other brothers led more humdrum lives. Thomas
settled down as a customs collector in
Queenston. William became a member of
the local Legislative Council.
William Dixon and his family came to Canada from
Whitehaven in Cumbria in 1818, disembarking in Quebec. They
made their way from there by oxen and by
flat-bottomed boat to Peterborough, Ontario where, with the help of
colony settlers, they built their first log cabin.
A later Dixon of this family, John Dixon,
headed West in 1883 in more comfort – in a train. He
settled in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and
became an influential civic leader there.
Africa. Ben Dixon departed Cape Colony
Wesleyan missionaries for SW Africa (now Namibia) in 1844.
He prospered for a while as a cattle trader
but later returned to Cape Colony, settling in Namakwaland. His story was covered in Ledivia van Vuuren’s
book Die Dixons van Namakwaland. There
was in fact another Dixon – Peter Dixon
the son of an 1820 settler – who came to trade in SW Africa in the
Australia. James Dixon was an early
arrival, a Catholic
priest from Wexford who accidentally got caught up in the 1798 Uprising
transported to Australia two years later.
He practiced as a priest ministering to Irish convicts for eight
before obtaining permission to return to Ireland.
Robert Dixon arrived in Australia from Durham in 1821 and found work as
surveyor and explorer of this new country.
His surveys took in the Burragorang valley and the Blue
Mountains in NSW
and later the Moreton Bay area near Brisbane.
However, his relations with local officialdom proved to be
and his last years in Australia were spent in search of gold.
arrived in Western Australia in 1850 as Superintendent of
Convicts. He fled the colony nine years
later after having
been accused of embezzling public money.
Thomas Dicson, The First of the Dicksons in Scotland. The Dickson
name is thought to have originated upon the birth of the son of Richard
son of Hervey de Keith, the Earl Marischal of Scotland, and Margaret,
of the 3rd Lord Douglas. Alexander Nisbet
in his 1722 book A System of Heraldry wrote:
Dicksons are descendants from Richard Keith, said to be a son of the
Keith, Earls Marischals of Scotland.”
Richard Keith’s son, Thomas, took the surname
“Dicson,” meaning “Dick’s son” or “Richard’s
This Thomas Dicson has quite a history. Born in 1247, he was
associated in some way with William Wallace and was killed by the
1307 in battle. Tradition states he was slashed across the abdomen but
continued fight holding the abdominal wound closed with one hand until
finally dropped dead.
He was buried in the churchyard of St Brides, Douglas and
his marker shows him with a sword in one hand holding his belly with
Robert the Bruce made him Castellan of Castle Douglas the year before
English Dixons of Scottish Origin. B. Homer
Dixon in his 1884 book A
Shorter History of Clan Dickson reported:
“Some of the Dickson clan left Scotland at an early date and became tenants of Furness
Abbey in county Lancaster. One of their
number was Sir
Nicholas Dixon, Rector of Cheshunt, Prebendary of
Howdon, and Baron of the Exchequer. He
died in 1448.
John Dixon of Furness Falls sprang Richard
Dixon, Lord Bishop of Cork in 1570, and Sir
Richard Dixon who married the widow of Lord Chancellor
Eustace. He was the ancestor of the Dixons
of Beeston in Yorkshire and now of Seaton Carew in
The Dicksons from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The Dicksons were a Scots Irish family who had come to Pennsylvania in the 1740’s
settled near Chambersburg.
One of the sons George, born in Ireland in 1735, came
to Black Lick Creek (now in Indiana county) in 1772, accompanied by his
brother John and bought 400 acres of land.
There they built a cabin, cleared what land they could during
summer, and then went back to Chambersburg for the winter.
The next year they returned and cleared more land
and in 1774 George moved his family into the cabin.
He continued to clear and
cultivate the land until 1778 when, in the greatest haste, he was
flee upon receiving news of the Wyoming massacre and the near-approach
hostile Indians. With his wife and three
small children, all mounted upon two saddle horses, they summarily
across the mountains to Chambersburg.
In 1782 George and his brother John again
visited their property in western Pennsylvania to find everything in
ashes. Coming southward to Pittsburgh,
suitable alternative land was found and purchased by George. John went further west into Ohio where
married and settled near Poland.
Another son Andrew was born in America in
1748. He died in service during the
Revolutionary War. The Bible containing Andrew Dickson’s family record
exists and remains in family hands.
Jeremiah Dixon and Dixie. Jeremiah Dixon from
Cockfield in Durham and his colleague Charles Mason completed the
mark the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland in 1768.
It became known as the Mason-Dixon line. It
became also the demarcation line between
North and South.
The word Dixie, popularized in the song Dixie Land, was to be a
popular term of reference for the Southern states.
Abraham Lincoln even ordered that the song Dixie
Land, so dear to the South, be sung at the reunion of the two sides
surrender, making it one of the national anthems.
Where did this term Dixie
Some have suggested that it referred to an English slave-owner who
took his slaves to New York. He was then told that slavery was unlawful
While the slaves were there they often talked about “Dixie land,” the
name of the Southern plantation to which they were eventually restored. Dixie might also have originated from dix
which was French for ten. There was a
small coin in New Orleans by this name.
But the more likely origin seems to have
been the Jeremiah Dixon of the Mason-Dixie line.
Charles Dixon, Emigrant to Canada. Charles Dixon,
emigrant to Canada, described himself and his journey as follows:
“I, Charles Dixon, was born March 8 in the year
1730 at Kirleavington, near Yarm in the East Riding of Yorkshire in Old
England. I was brought up to the
bricklayer’s trade with my father until I was about nineteen years of
followed that calling till the 29th year of my age.
I then engaged in a paper manufactory at
Hutton Rudby and followed that business for the space of about twelve
with success. At the age of thirty one I
married Susanna Coates, by whom I have had one son and four daughters.
1772, after many thoughts and consultations with my wife and
friends, I came to a resolution to leave all my friends and interests I
invested with and go to Nova Scotia. The time arrived that we were to
Liverpool and we reached there the 27th February, from whence we sailed
16th day of March on board the Duke of
York with sixty-two souls as settlers.
many discouragements we arrived
and landed at Fort Cumberland on the 21st day of May and went into the
with my family until we could find a resting place.
At first glance things wore a very gloomy
aspect. There were few of the inhabitants
but wanted to sell their lands and depart.
I began to walk about the country and went over to Sackville. After a few days investigation, finding the
cause of discontent to be largely due to indolence and lack of
purchased a tract of land at Sackville, to which I removed my family on
The Adventures of Thomas Dixon. Thomas Dixon was
born on the Isle of Man in 1816. At the
age of 21 he married a woman named Eliza Fennella. That same year of
mother died and Dixon inherited her estate – only to find that his
in such debt that her assets barely covered the costs of her funeral. Pursued by her creditors, Dixon and his wife
fled the island.
ended up in London where his wife left him and their two
children. Undeterred Dixon applied for
and was appointed Superintendent of Convicts for the Swan River Colony
Western Australia. In 1850 Dixon
traveled to the colony with his two children and his “wife.” Shortly after their arrival at Fremantle,
Dixon’s wife was banished to Toodyay “for the good of the
Service.” As no record of Dixon’s
second marriage was ever found, it seems that his wife’s banishment
Fremantle was most likely attributable to her exposure as Dixon’s
wife who was not the mother of his children.
Fremantle Dixon created a
reforming humane convict regime for the new colony.
But there was little recognition of what he
had achieved because he was charged and indicted in 1859 for embezzling
fled to Singapore and made his way to Labuan Island where he was
appointed chief constable. However this appointment was nixed by the
Office when they learnt about it. From
around 1862, Dixon was a mercenary with the forces fighting to put down
Taiping Rebellion in China.
was known of how he spent the next ten
years of his life. But in December 1876
he arrived back at Fremantle and spent the final years of his life in
health living with his eldest daughter Mary and her husband.
Select Dixon Names
- Thomas Dicson, a contemporary of William Wallace in Scotland, is considered the first to have borne the Dickson/Dixon name.
- Jeremiah Dixon was a surveyor, the Dixon of the Mason-Dixon line established in 1768 as the demarcation line between North and South in America. He may even have been the origin of the term Dixie.
- Baron Oscar Dickson from a Scottish mercantile family was a leading Swedish industrial magnate of the mid 19th century and a patron of Arctic expeditions.
- Cromwell Dixon was a teen dirigible pilot and the first person in 1911 to fly in an airplane across the US Continental
Divide. However, he died in an air crash
two days after this feat.
- George Dixon was the popular fictional policeman in the British TV series Dixon of Dock Green of the 1950’s.
- Barbara Dickson is a Scottish singer whose hits have included I Know Him So Well.
Dixon Numbers Today
- 62,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 60,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
- 37,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Select Dixon 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.
Click here for return to front page
Leave a Reply