Dyson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Dyson Surname Meaning

The Dyson surname seems to have been female in origin, a pet form of the Greek personal name Dionysia found in medieval times. It is one of those surnames where DNA analysis suggests a single person origin of the name. After 23 Dyson volunteers were tested, it was found that 90% of them had the same or closely related Y chromosomes.

Dyson Surname Resources on The Internet

Dyson Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Yorkshire)
  • to America and Australia

England.  Dyson has been very much a Yorkshire surname, originating near Hudddersfield in the West Riding.

Yorkshire.  The Dyson name is believed to have started with John Dyson of Linthwaite, a man on record in the court rolls of Wakefield manor in west Yorkshire from 1316. He in turn was the son of Dyonisia of Linthwaite, also known as Dye of Linthwaite, a lady who was hauled before the manor courts for stealing cattle in the late 13th century.

Linthwaite itself is a village some four miles west of Huddersfield in the Colne valley. In the 1881 census the Dysons in Britain totalled 9,712. Of that number:

  • 80% were living in Yorkshire and the adjacent parts of Lancashire
  • and 25% still had their homes in Linthwaite and surrounding districts.

Betty Dyson married into the Mallinson family of Linthwaite in 1837 and their son, Sir Dyson Mallinson, became a prominent millowner in Huddersfield. More recently, Leslie Dyson played euphonium and trombone with the Linthwaite brass band from the 1940’s to 1970’s. James Dyson runs a dyeworks in Linthwaite today.

Where the surname had extended outside the Huddersfield area was mainly to nearby conurbations such as Halifax in Yorkshire and Rochdale across the Pennines in Lancashire:

  • Eli Dyson ran paper mills in Halifax in the mid 1700’s
  • Sir George Dyson, the musician and composer, was born in Halifax in 1883
  • and Sir Frank Dyson, the Astronomer Royal, grew up there
  • while James Dyson and his brother William from Oldham were 19th century tea dealers in Rochdale.

Worcestershire.  One Dyson line was to be found in Worcestershire, not Yorkshire. Dysons in the county date back to Henry Dyson who married Elizabeth Dethicke around 1506 and died at Inkberrow in 1548. The first of a family line was John Dyson, born in 1726 at Stock and Bradley in Worcestershire.

Elsewhere.  James Greaves Dyson, born in 1854, was a corn merchants’ agent who hailed originally from Ambleside in Westmorland.  His son James was a schoolmaster, his great grandson James, born in Norfolk in 1947, invented a dual cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner and started his Dyson company to market it.  This has made him the fourth richest person in the UK.

America. The Dysons in America may have come from Thomas Dison, transported from England in 1652 to Norfolk, Virginia.

The more likely progenitor is William Dyson, thought to be from Worcestershire, who arrived in Maryland in 1679. Thomas Dyson was a tobacco planter in Charles county in southern Maryland in the early 1700’s. Some descendants moved south to Mississippi and Louisiana in the 1790’s. But Maryland is still the state where most Dysons in America are to be found.

Australia. George Dyson came out to Victoria in 1852 to prospect in the Ballarat goldfields. He found little gold. However, he and his wife Jane did produce three talented sons – Ted a poet, Ambrose an artist, and Will a political cartoonist. Ross McMullin’s 2006 biography of Will Dyson was entitled Australia’s Radical Genius.

In 1923 a young Laurie Dyson left his home In Leeds for Australia to work as a farm laborer in rural Victoria. His employer passed away in 1952 and he was able to buy his bus business. That business then consisted of four clapped out buses. But Dysons as a company was underway. Nicholas Martin’s 2002 book Dysons – Moving with the Times narrated the company story.

Dyson Surname Miscellany

Dysons in Linthwaite and Its Environs.  The first Dyson of Linthwaite appears to have been Dyonisia, the wife of Peter Mallesheved (moles head). She had two children, John Dyson and Agnes Dyedaughter.  John joined his mother in cattle raids that were recorded in Wakefield court rolls.

Later poll tax records of 1379 showed the names of Johannes Dison and Dionisia (wife of Thomas Dison). There was a John Dyson recorded there in 1492 and Edward Dyson in 1545.  These Dysons were said to have been resident at the Old House, called The Kitchen, attached to Linthwaite Hall but nearer to Slaithwaite, which apparently remained in Dyson hands through the 19th century.

The Dyson name had spread by the 1400’s beyond Linthwaite to Huddersfield and Sowerby.  Dysons lived at Swift Place in Sowerby from the early 1500’s.  The first in this line appears to have been a Christopher Dyson.  George Dyson was churchwarden at Christ church in Sowerby Bridge in the late 1700’s.

Eli Dyson’s Misadventures in Halifax.  Eli Dyson of Willow Hall operated paper mills in Halifax. However, in 1766 he had become insolvent and was forced to assign over his mills and all his other properties to his chief creditor John Edwards.  Edwards had Eli imprisoned in York castle for debt.   Eli’s son Daniel temporarily saved the situation by eloping with Edwards’ only daughter Sarah and marrying her in Scotland.

Eli’s younger brother Jeremiah was a merchant who lived and died in Portugal.  There is a possible line through James Dyson of this family to the George Dyson who departed London for Australia in 1852 to prospect in the Victorian goldfields.

Reader Feedback – Dysons in Yorkshire and Worcestershire.  My own earliest known Dysons were still abiding in the area southwest of Huddersfield, claimed as place of origin of the Dyson name. There have long been Dysons settled in Worcestershire too.

The LDS Family Search web site includes a family tree supposedly linking the Worcestershire and West Yorkshire Dysons.  Too good to be true though.  In my view the genealogy has to be spurious. How did this fellow find obscure data that no one else could, slyly tying it together with tongue-in-cheek unnamed -son generations?

On the other hand, the Dyson second Christian name of the founder of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce and other members of the Perrins family of Worcestershire seems to really have originated with Sarah Dyson of Huddersfield, born in 1791. But I can’t specifically connect her to my own ancestral lines.

Tony Newman (rustyrails@gmx.com).

Reader Feedback – Dysons from Lancashire to Hull.  I have been researching my family history and have managed to go back to my 7th great grandfather Lawrence Dyson who was born in 1640 in Penistone, Lancashire.

These Dysons would eventually move to Hull in Yorkshire where my great grandfather was born in 1841. It would seem they became coal merchants and colliery owners in Hornsea.  My grandmother Minnie Hastings Dyson was born in Hull in 1866.

I have carried out a DNA Test, but have not recognized anyone so far with the Dyson family. Graham Linton (yorky.linton@gmail.com).

Dysons in the 1881 Census.  The following were the leading towns and villages with Dysons in the 1881 census.

Location County Numbers
Huddersfield Yorkshire    386
Linthwaite Yorkshire    287
Lindley cum Quarmby Yorkshire    217
Oldham Lancashire    205
Lockwood Yorkshire    179
Golcar Yorkshire    171
Leeds Yorkshire    168

Sir Frank Dyson, Astronomer Royal.  Frank’s father, the Rev. Watson Dyson, had been born in Stalybridge on the outskirts of Manchester in 1837 and became a Baptist minister.  Frank himself was born in Leicestershire but considered himself a Yorkshireman as he grew up in Halifax where they lived on Lewis Street.  His father was organist and choirmaster at the North Parade Baptist church.

At Halifax Frank won a scholarship to Bradford Grammar School and later he studied mathematics at Cambridge University.  In 1924, as Astronomer Royal at Greenwich and with the help of the BBC, he introduced the Greenwich “six pips” time signal.  He had a crater on the moon named after him, and also an asteroid.  He was one of the first to take on board and accept the principles of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

He died on a sea trip to Australia in 1938, four years after retiring from Greenwich, and was buried at sea. 

George and Jane Dyson in Australia.  George Dyson had come to Australia at the age of fifteen in 1852 to prospect in the Victorian goldfields.  Like many others of his time, he worked unsuccessfully at various diggings and moved around a lot.

In 1862 George met and married Jane Mayall in Geelong.  She was the daughter of a successful cotton mill-owner in Lancashire and had been used to a life of refinement.  However, her father Ambrose, who had brought his family to Australia, did not take well to the roughness of the country and committed suicide. .

George became a dry goods hawker and they eventually settled in Melbourne.  George and Jane had eleven children, of whom eight survived to adulthood.  Although the children received little formal education, Jane fostered their literary and artistic talents.  Three of their offspring became famous – Ted a poet, Ambrose an artist, and Will a political cartoonist.

Arthur Dyson – from India to Canada to South Africa.  Arthur was born in Kanpur, India in 1869.  His father, Thomas Dyson from London, was a manager at the Bank of Bengal.  He sent Arthur to a private school back in England in order for him to be trained as an accountant, with the intent that he would also probably work for the bank as well. But Arthur, it seems, was interested in a more adventurous life.

In 1887, at the age of just nineteen, he landed himself at Calgary in Canada.  Five years later, he found himself a wife, Florence Hudson from a ranching family at Midnapore in Alberta.  He himself was a rancher for a while before joining the NW Mounted Police.

In 1901 Arthur moved the family to South Africa as he saw military service during the Boer War.  Afterwards he worked for Viscount Milner as an administrator of some sort.  There is a record of him going to the Transvaal and living and working at the police station in Zeerust.

Unfortunately he did not live to a ripe old age. In 1910 he and the family were walking down the gangplank to board a ship in Johannesburg when Arthur suddenly collapsed with what turned out to be a ruptured appendix.  According to his wife. he was in such pain that it took twelve men holding him down for nearly an hour before he died.

Granny Dyson, as she became known, got on that ship and returned with her children to Canada.  She died there in 1957, outliving her husband by forty-seven years.

Dyson Names

  • John Dyson of Linthwaite in the West Ridings of Yorkshire is believed to be the 14th century progenitor of those bearing the Dyson name.
  • Sir Frank Dyson was Astronomer Royal and director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory from 1910 to 1933.
  • James Dyson was the British inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner.

Dyson Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in Maryland)
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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