Select Dawson Surname Genealogy

The given name David, from the Hebrew Dodavehu 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 from 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.

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Select Dawson Ancestry

EnglandEarly Dawson lines claimed descent from the time of William the Conqueror – the Dawsons of Spaldington in Yorkshire from the Norman adventurer Sir Marmaduke D'Ossone 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 generations.

The largest number of Dawsons, however, have been in Yorkshire.  The first record of a Dawson was in fact that of Thomas Daweson 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 1550's.
  • 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 George Dawson was a well-known figure in Harrogate in the late 19th century.
Geoffrey Dawson, who became editor of The Times in the inter-war years, was born in Skipton in north Yorkshire.

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 from Spaldington in Yorkshire 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. 
  • another Dawson family came tot the Glen of Aherlow in Tipperary in the late 1600’s and remained landlords there until the early 20th century. 
There 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.

Thomas 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 Mary College.  But his position there soon deteriorated due to his drunken habits.  Meanwhile Captain Anthony Dawson was in the Albemarle Sound area of North Carolina by 1693 and Dawsons were later recorded nearby in Edgecombe county. 

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 Dawson made the same journey as a young man and subsequently became a large cattle rancher in Navarro county,

The Dawson family of Greene county, Georgia began with a British soldier who deserted and joined the 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. Dawson 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 Edward 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. 

Other 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 early settler in the Swan river colony that became Western Australia. 

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

“After William's brother drowned his father wrote to him and forgave him, asking him to come back to inherit his brother's 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 engineer 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 jumped 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.

Select Dawson Miscellany

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

Select 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 Dawsons 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)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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