Tyson Surname Genealogy

origin of the surname Tyson is not clear.  It could have come from
the Old French tison, meaning
“firebrand,” and be a nickname for someone with a fiery temperament; or
it could have been a variant of the surname Dyson (from
Dennis).   Gilbert
(or Tesson) held the Alnwick estate in
Northumberland in the days before the Norman invasion.  But his
line died out in the 12th century.

In America Tyson could have evolved from the German Thyssen or Dutch Tijssen.

Resources on

Tyson Ancestry

England.   There were
Tysons as sheriffs and mayors of Bristol, from whose number came Edward
Tyson, the noted scientist and physician.  But the main
concentration of Tysons was further north, in Cumberland.

Cumberland  Tyson
has been very much a Cumbrian name (it ranked 22nd among
the list of most common Cumbrian surnames in 1829) and was particularly
to be found in the Lake District areas of Langdale, Eskdale,
and Wasdale.  The poet William Wordswoth boarded with an Ann Tyson
at Hawkshead when he attended school there in the 1780’s (her cottage
is still standing).  More recently, Tim Tyson was the local
shoemaker in Grasmere and today Alan Tyson is the mayor of Cockermouth.

By the early 19th century, the Tyson name had extended to the Cumbrian
coast, to the shipping community at Maryport and the mining community
at Workington, as the following account testified:

“I was born in Whitehaven in 1919 and
the Tysons were my mother’s family.  I had six brothers and they
all worked in the pits at one time.  Grandmother Tyson was one of
the “screen lasses” who went to London in the 1880’s as the Government
wanted to stop women working on the screens.”

Elsewhere  Tysons
also moved south into Lancashire.  Thomas Tyson came to Ulverston,
then in Lancashire, from Cumberland in the 1770’s.   The 1891 census
in fact showed
more Tysons in Lancashire than in Cumberland.

America.  Early Tysons in
America may have had English origins, but not necessarily.  A
Thiessen family from the German town of Krefeld arrived in Pennsylvania
in the 1680’s and became Quakers there.  Reiner Tyson was one of
the early settlers of Germantown.  These Tysons later were
prosperous merchants in Baltimore and Elisha Tyson a prominent
abolitionist there.

The origin of earlier Tyson arrivals into Northampton county, Virginia
in the 1660’s is uncertain.  Legend has it that they came from
Wales.  But the early presence of names such as Matthias and
Cornelius might suggest Dutch or German roots instead.

These Tysons moved south into North Carolina in the early 1700’s (some
of their lines were chronicled in Roger Kammerer’s 1987 book The Tyson and May Genealogy of Pitt
County, NC). 
From there they spread into Georgia,
Arkansas, and Alabama.
It is believed that John W. Tyson, the founder of
Tyson Foods in Arkansas, came from this family.

There were also Tysons in America from Germany.  Descendants of Cornelius Tyson from Krefeld in Germany settled in Wood county, Ohio.

The Tyson name has been common for some reason on Nevis St. Kitts, the
smallest islands on the Caribbean Windward island chain.  The name
might have remained obscure had not a Tyson family from Nevis sought to
better themselves in New York.  Their daughter was the noted
American actress Cicely Tyson who married the jazz trumpeter Miles
Davis in 1981.

Australia and New Zealand.
Some Tysons from Cumberland headed this way in the 19th century, such

  • John Tyson from the mining town of Workington who left for
    Australia in 1860 in search of gold
  • and Joseph Tyson and his brother Abraham who emigrated to
    Canterbury, New Zealand later in the 1860’s.

But the most celebrated of these Tysons was James Tyson, born in Australia
in 1819 to a convict mother from Cumberland.  A cattle rancher, he
became a byword for wealth and a legend
in his lifetime.  When he died in 1898 without leaving a will,
many Tysons stepped out of the woodwork to seek a share of his fortune.

Tyson Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Tyson Names

Edward Tyson was a 17th century
scientist and physician, commonly regarded as the founder of modern
comparative anatomy.
James Tyson was a legendary
Australian rancher of the late 19th century.
John W. Tyson founded Tyson
Foods in Arkansas in the 1930’s.
Frank Tyson, nicknamed
“Typhoon,” was the English cricketer and fearsome fast bowler of the
is an American
actress of Caribbean roots.
Mike Tyson rose from the
streets of Brooklyn to become the heavyweight boxing champion of the

Select Tysons

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous
    in North Carolina)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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