Select Dickens Surname Genealogy

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); and Dickens is a pet form of Dick, the -"kens" suffix denoting "the little one."  Alternative spellings have been Dickin and Dicken.

No one quite knows how the expression "what the dickens," a mild expletive (dickens instead of devil), emerged.   It seems to have been around since the 1600's.

Select Dickens Resources on The Internet

Select Dickens Ancestry

England.  Dickens seems to have been originally a term and a name localized to the west Midlands of England.  Exactly where is impossible to say, possibly Staffordshire, Shropshire or Derbyshire based on early sightings.

Dyckins in Staffordshire date from the 1400ís.  This family held the manor of Preen from 1560 to 1749 when John Dickins, imprisoned for debt, could not pay the mortgage.  Later Dickins in Staffordshire were to be found at Woodford Grange.

The Dickin name was to be found in the village of Wem in north Shropshire in the 17th century and perhaps earlier. Thomas Dickin was a master at Wem school who met an unhappy end.

"Thomas Dickin was elected in 1650 and taught until the great fire and sometime after.  But then abandoning himself to drunkenness he was dismissed from the school and died very poor in 1687."

Dickin did become local gentry in Wem.  The village has in fact a pub called The Dickin Arms, whose building dates back to 1665 (making it one of the oldest pubs in the country).  And many Dickins were also to be found in the nearby village of Prees.

Meanwhile there was a Thomas Dickin in the 1670ís who involved himself with his cousin William Cotton in an early iron forge and furnace venture in south Yorkshire.

Charles Dickens' line seems to have started out in Hazelwood in Derbyshire in the 16th century.  They were later in London and Charles's grandfather William was born there in 1716.  He had been a steward to Lord Crewe at his country seat in Cheshire where he had met Elizabeth, his second wife, who was a housemaid there.  William had two sons by Elizabeth, William and John (Charles's father).  It was Elizabeth's legacy after her death in 1824 that released John from the debtors' prison and Charles from the blacking factory.

"Having left school at the age of fifteen, Charles Dickens began his career by working in a solicitor's office and then became a political reporter.  This period was of the greatest importance to Dickens's development as an author.  His interests widened, he mastered the art of rapid, fluent, popular writing, and he acquired a stock of experience that was to give his novels their tremendous immediacy and impact."

Charles Dickens and his wife had ten children and they were to have many descendants, some achieving success in their own right.

Dickens lines elsewhere have been:
  • a Dicken family (sometimes spelt Dickin) has been traced to the south Derbyshire village of Newton Solney.  Five Dickins were recorded in 1662 Hearth Tax assessments and the Dicken name was still very visible there in the 19th century. 
  • Samuel Dickens was the vicar of St. Margaret's in Hemingford Abbotts in Huntingdonshire in the early 1700's.  The church has stained glass insets with armorial bearings to the Dickens family.  His descendants were later to be found in East Dereham, Norfolk. 
  • one Dickens family account began with the birth of James Deacins in Cranleigh, Surrey in 1753 to parents described as "travellers."  These Dickens subsequently had army and navy careers.
  • and Dickens from Stewkley in Buckinghamshire, from Riseley in Bedfordshire, and from Brixworth in Northamptonshire date back to about 1800. 
America.  The first Dickens in America may well have been Thomas Dickens who died in Surry county, Virginia in 1717.  From his line came Ephraim and Thomas Dickens, brothers in Raleigh county, West Virginia (lines followed in Kirk Dickens' 1985 book The Descendants of Ephraim Dickens and Thomas Dickens). Another family account of this line began with Thomas Dickens who married Rhody Pennington in Virginia in 1812.

From the Hazelwood, Derbyshire line in England came two brothers, Joseph and William Dickens (sometime called Dicken in America), who set out for Halifax county, North Carolina in the 1750's.  The Rev. John Dickens was also to be found in Halifax county by 1780.  Meanwhile Thomas Dickens of Northampton county, North Carolina was the forebear of the Dickens who migrated to Arkansas. Another Dickens family from North Carolina moved to the Hurricane Creek area of Tennessee in the early 1800's.

One later Dickens line in North Carolina stemmed in the 1860's from the union of the white Kelly Dickens, a doctor, and the black Milly, his housekeeper.  Kelly and Milly would not have been allowed to marry in the antebellum North Carolina.

Today the Dickens popiulation in America is very much to be found still in North Carolina and Tennessee.  Best known Dickens today are Little Jimmy Dickens, the country singer, and Hazel Dickens, who sings bluegrass.  Both were born in West Virginia. 

Canada.  Francis Dickens was the third son of novelist Charles Dickens who had a somewhat unfavorable opinion of him.

ďOn being asked by his son for three hundred pounds, a horse and a gun to set himself up as a gentleman farmer in the colonies, Charles Dickens wrote that the consequence of the first is that he would be robbed of it, the second, that it would throw him, and the third, that he would shoot his own head off.Ē

After his fatherís death in 1870, Francis soon wasted his small inheritance but managed to get a post with the NW Mounted Police in Canada.   He served there for twelve years before his premature death from a heart attack.  He left behind a rather tattered reputation

Select Dickens Miscellany

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

Select Dickens Names

Charles Dickens was the very popular and prolific Victorian novelist whose works have endured.
Monica Dickens, a granddaughter of Charles Dickens, was a 20th century English writer.
Little Jimmy Dickens is an American country singer from West Virginia.

Select Dickens Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Nottinghamshire)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina) 
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page