Dickason/in/er/enson/Dixon DNA Project web site - News

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Two project members have researched the origin of our surnames - January 2010.

The first discussion has been posted here since June 2005. It was authored by Graham Brian Dickason (project Group D) of South Africa. This discussion is contained in THE DICKASON FAMILY IN SOUTH AFRICA: Genealogical data on the Dickason Family in South Africa and the Branch of that Family in Argentina, by Graham Brian Dickason. First printing April 2003, revised and reprinted August 2003, Copyright 2003, ISBN 0-620-30934-2 (reproduced with his permission). It also available on other websites, e.g.,

Graham’s discussion might be considered more traditional and is along the lines of similar discussions:


Recently a new project member (project Group E), Keith Thomas Berry has completed research that comes to a different view. Since I am not an onomatologist, I present them both for your consideration.

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Graham Dickason

The origins of the name Dickason are interesting, for in these can be seen the reasons for the common misspelling that so often occurs. Genealogists accept that the name Dickason is a corruption of Dickinson. In this form it has been derived firstly from Dick, the English abbreviation for Richard, then from assimilating the suffix -in or -kin, signifying the younger of the kinship, and lastly -son, the son of Richard.

The name Richard is Teutonic in origin and meant harsh king or ruler. Though it makes a rare appearance in England before the Norman Conquest of 1066 AD, it is only with the advent of the first Norman king of this name, Richard I, who ruled England from 1189 to 1199 that it gained in popularity. This was no doubt due to the adventures of Richard I, which earned him the additional name of Coeur-de-Lion.

One must go back some 600 years before 1066 to the mid-Fifth Century to find the origins from which Richard has been derived and then transmuted by varying spellings into modern languages. The leading syllable is from the same source as Ragn, it is he who executes judgment, the ruler or king – the same as the Indian Rajah, and Rex which is connected to the Latin regere, to rule. In Gothic it was Reiks, then Rich in Old High Germanic and Ric or Ryce in Anglo-Saxon.

The earliest Anglo-Saxon record of the name Richard dates from the year 673 AD, when Egbert, the King of Kent, died and left the throne to his son Edric, who was usurped by Lothaire (Hlothere) the late king's brother. Lothaire took possession of the kingdom and in order to secure the power in his family, enlisted Richard, his son, in what was ultimately a vain attempt to secure continuity for the family.

Edric, the disinherited prince, sought help from the King of Sussex in the adjoining kingdom. Edric won a battle against Lothaire and Richard in 684. Lothaire died of wounds and Richard fled across the sea into Germany, thence onwards to Lucca in Tuscany, where he became a monk and is said to have wrought many miracles.

The Norman dynasty must have had some connection with Lucca, for it is recorded that The Holy Face of Lucca was William Rufus's favourite oath when he followed William I to the English throne. The second Norman duke, Richard I, grandson of the founder of the duchy of Normandy, is the first Norman to bear the name. He transmitted it to two successors. Although Richard became a national name and three Richards have held the throne, the name was discarded by British royalty after the enormities imputed to the last Plantagenet.

The origin in English of the nickname Dick stems from the French form of nickname for Richard used when hereditary surnames began in England. Surnames had begun to make their appearance in France from about the Tenth Century onwards. With the Norman Conquest, Dicon, Diquon and Digon were introduced into England. At that time, Anglo-Saxon names were still confined to personal names only. Then the use of surnames began in the British Isles, with the old personal names rapidly superseded by the new versions of Christian names being introduced.

Between 1066 and 1400 most families in England adopted permanent surnames, usually indicative of patronymic descent or occupation. In 1465 the use of surnames was made compulsory by Act of Parliament. This was followed in 1538 when the order was given by Thomas Cromwell, vicar-general to King Henry VIII, whereby it was made the duty of every parish clergyman to keep registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. This order was in fact implemented very slowly, being largely ignored at first.

The earliest record in England of the nickname Diquon is in the old English forms Diccon and Dicon, Dickin coming at a later stage. The son of Diccon arises where the parent was named Richard, the old nickname adopting the French and later, English colloquialism of using the letter D for names beginning with R – denoting the diminutive. Thus in this period we have Dodge for Roger, Dob for Robert and so on. Later we find the letter H appears as an alternative to D – hence the old English rhyme Hickory, Dickory Dock. Humphrey replaced Dumphrey and led to Humpty Dumpty. Hick was later lazified into Higg, and thence to the patronymic Higgin and Higginson. The word Dick, however, stuck more closely to the sharpened form to become in later usage the first portion of a patronymic name.

As surnames came to be adopted, the use of the word son, denoting the male child, came to be used in turning a local or nickname into a baptismal surname. Hence the son of the cook, Cookson; the son of the shepherd, Shepherdson, and in the same way Diccon became Dicconson and Dicon became Diconson. The early forms of the surname that derived from Diquon appear variously in the rolls and lists of population of England as Dicon, Diccon, Dicconson and Dicun. The use of Dickon as an abbreviation for Richard is substantiated, for instance, by William Shakespeare’s (Act V, Scene 3, 304–5) King Richard the Third where Norfolk is warned not to give overt support to Richard III, whose fate is mostly probably sealed:
                           Jockey of Norfolk, be not so bold,
 For Dickon thy master is bought and sold.
Another example is the record of John and Henry Dicounesson de Clesnesse, being the sons of Richard, the son of Henry de Clesnesse listed in the patent rolls, Northumberland in 1359. Other early variations include:
                                                    1296 William de Dyck                    Edinburgh   
1366 William Dykounson S.R.A.Archive
1388 John Dykonesson F.R.Y.
1518 Henry Dicason GILD Y
1585 Gilbert Dyckenson Sheffield Archive
1598 Henry Dikersone A.D. v.i. (Nf)
1598 Nicholas Dickersone, son of Dicun
By the late Seventeenth Century, we begin to find the usage and spelling as Dickason. One of the early cases is the birth of Susanna Dickason, daughter of Elizabeth Dickason, being entered in the records of St John the Baptist Church, Walbrook, in the City of London. A few years later, in 1692, the same records mention Daniel Dickason, son of Elizabeth Dickason, evidently the same mother as Susanna’s. In Necton, Norfolk, on 16 November 1684 we have the birth of John Dickason.

The following are the related variations of the name derived from the diminutive for the sons of Richard:


Decunson, Dekoun, Deekon, Deekin
Dicason, Dickason, Dickeson
Diccon, Dicconson
Dickon, Dickons, Dickonson
Dicon, Diconson Dicounesson
Dikson, Dickson, Dikkonson
Diquon, Digon (French)
Dyck,Dycks, Dycson, Dyckenson


Dick, Dicks, Dicke, Dickie
Dickason, Dickenson, Dickerson, Dickinson
Dickens, Dickin, Dickison Dickson, Dixon
Dyke, Dykes, Dykstra, Dyason

Keith Berry

Here is my theory about the origin of the surname Dickason/Dickenson/Dickerson/Dickinson/Dickison.

Regardless of how the surname has been spelled, it has always consisted of three syllables: the first being Dick, the last being son, and the middle one being a or en or er or in or i. Any successful search for the origin of this surname must account for all three syllables. Of course, the last syllable, son, meant that the first holder of that surname was the son of a man who had been known by only a single name. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to find the original meaning of the other two syllables: Dicka or Dicken or Dicker or Dickin or Dicki.

Written records have revealed that a man named Johnne Dykonson[1] was living in England[2] in the 1200’s of the Common Era [CE].[3] So, obviously, the first Dykonson was the son of a man whose only name had been Dykon.

For the next eight generations some male descendants of this Johnne Dykonson lived on the north side of the Humber Estuary [now Kingston-Upon-Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire].[4] This area had been occupied for fifteen or twenty centuries by the Parisi tribe[5] and their descendants.[6] The Parisi were “a relatively progressive people”[7] and they had established there a local culture [Arras[8]] based on the culture from their previous home [La Tene[9]] in central Europe.[10]

One modern male descendant[11] of Johnne Dykonson carries the L21 marker [haplogroup R1b1b2a1b5] in his yDNA. This reflects an ancestral lineage that had come to Britain from the La Tene culture of southern Germany.[12] So the yDNA data confirm the existing ethnographic information about the Dykonson family of eastern Yorkshire.

The original name Dykon identified this 1200’s Englishman as a servant. The name was based on diakon, the Greek word for “servant,” which had become diacon in the Latin language[13] spoken during the Roman occupation of Britain. The Christian Church, which had been introduced into Britain by the Romans, included a leadership position entitled diacon, an “office of collecting and distributing…alms.”[14] But after the Romans left Britain in the 400’s CE, this office “declined in the West as a distinct rank of clerical service and eventually disappeared [except as] a ‘transitional’ order given to candidates on their way to priestly ordination.”[15]

As the ecclesiastical diacon for clergy became less important in the Roman church, the secular role of diacon as servant became more important in Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman societies. In Old English the word remained diacon[16] or became deakne;[17] in Old French the word became diacne;[18] in Middle English the word became deken or dekene;[19] and in modern English deacon.[20] At a time when words were more often spoken than spelled, someone apparently tried to spell deken the way it sounded and so wrote it as Dykon.

In 13th century Britain any man known as Dykon was a man who performed the occupation of a servant. Others would have used this title as his nickname.[21] So, if a gentleman wanted to speak to his servant, he would simply address him as Dykon. Thus the word Dykon became the servant’s name, and when this man became a father his son was given the surname Dykon’s Son or simply Dykonson.[22] This theory accounts for all three syllables in the family’s surname, and is consistent with the time and place of the name’s origin.

But other theories have been proposed by other people.

One story is that the ancestors of this family had come to England from the city of Caen in Normandy, France, and so they had become known as de Caen.[23] However, there is ethnographic evidence that the Parisi people, who were the paternal ancestors of this family, had arrived in Britain during the last 500 years before the Common Era [BCE].[24] Therefore, if this family had been from Caen and if they had immigrated into England during the age of the Parisi, it seems unlikely that the city of their origin would have defined their name some twelve to seventeen centuries later in another location.

A second possibility is that some members of this family had worked in the construction or maintenance of dikes [dykes].[25] It is true that dikes [dykes] were sometimes built in early Britain to mark boundaries. A dikeworker living in Yorkshire in the 1200’s CE certainly might have become known by his occupation, but there is no evidence of any two-syllable word having been used to identify a dikeworker of that era, nor of a three-syllable word having been used to identify the son of a dikeworker.

Some have noted that the syllable Dick became a nickname for the forename Richard.[26] But “the earliest recorded use in English” of Dick as a nickname for Richard was in 1553,[27] and that was about 300 years after the first recorded use of the surname Dykonson. So the Dyk of Dykon or Dykonson was from a time too early to have been intended as a nickname for Richard. Furthermore, the single syllable Dick does not explain the origin of the second syllable in this family’s name.

Another consideration is whether the second syllable in the surname Dickenson or Dickinson—the syllable ken or kin—might imply kinship with the person named in the first syllable, such as Dick’s kin.[28] However, the use of kin as a “suffix forming diminutive nouns”[29] which might have been used for a name like Thomkin[son] or Hopkin[s]—or even the hypothetical Dickkin[son] with two “k’s”—was not characteristic of the early English language. Instead, the kin suffix emerged from the Middle Dutch kijn or ken and/or from the Middle Low German kin, both meaning “little”[30] as in “Little Tom,” “Little Hop,” or the hypothetical “Little Dick.”

Thus, several possible theories about the origin of this family’s name have been carefully considered and respectfully rejected for reasonable cause. But the theory of “dykon as servant” remains as the explanation which is most consistent with all available evidence.

During the last 800 years, in English and American documents, the three-syllable surname has been spelled in various ways including Dickason, Dickenson, Dickerson, Dickeson, Dickinson, Dickinsonne, Dickison, Dykensonne and Dykonson. But all appear to have emerged from the Johnne Dykonson family or from other servant families who lived in England during the Middle Ages.

Now, their descendants are dispersed into every continent of the world.

[1] “Johnne Dykonson and Margaret de Lambert” in “Ancestors of David and Carla Goodloe,” http://www.dickerson-goodloe.com/onlineversion/f844.htm.

[2] Note that Don Dickson has written that “[I]t is fairly safe to assume that the surname Dickson originated in the British Isles,” and “the surname Dixon has good solid origins in Yorkshire.” Source: “Origins of the surname Dickson,” copyright 1999 as “the-dicksons.org” and last updated April 22, 2008, http://www.thedicksons.org/name/name_index.htm

[3] “Johnne Dykonson and Margaret de Lambert,” op. cit.

[4] The first in this lineage to have moved away from Kingston-upon-Hull was Hugh Dickinson, who c.1451 moved to Kenson Manor in Leeds, Yorkshire. Source: “Hugh Dickinson and Agnes or Alice de Swillington” in “Ancestors of David and Carla Goodloe,” http://www.dickerson-goodloe.com/onlineversion/f814.htm

[5] The Parisi tribe of Britain was related to the Parisii tribe of Gaul [now France], who settled on the Seine River and gave their name to the city of Paris which developed in their territory. Source: Andrew Hussey, PARIS: THE SECRET HISTORY (New York: Bloomsbury, 2006), p. 3.

[6] ANCIENT BRITAIN: HISTORICAL MAP (Southampton, United Kingdom: Ordnance Survey, 2005).

[7] Richard Muir, THE YORKSHIRE COUNTRYSIDE: A LANDSCAPE HISTORY (Edinburgh, Scotland: Keele University Press, 1997), p. 58.

[8] “Arras culture", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arras_culture

[9] “La Tene culture", http://en.wikipedia.org:80/wiki/La_Tène_culture

[11] This author, Keith T. Berry, is a descendant of Reuben Berry who was born c.1750 in King George County, Virginia, and was the bastard child of Sarah Berry and an unidentified man who carried the L21 marker in his yDNA. Because the yDNA which this unidentified man transmitted to Keith T. Berry is so similar to that now carried by several other men now surnamed Dickason, Dickenson, Dickerson, Dickinson and Dickison, a search for the biological father of this Reuben Berry was made in the written records of early King George County, Virginia. County court records revealed that both Henry Berry (1694-1749) and Thomas Dickenson (c.1680/90-1735) lived at the same time [the 1730’s] in the same parish [Hanover] of the same county [King George], and once served together on the same grand jury [November 3, 1732]. This Henry Berry was the father of the above-named Sarah Berry. This Thomas Dickenson was the father of six children: John and possibly Thomas Jr., James, William, Sarah and Edward. Significantly, this Thomas Dickenson (c.1680/90-1735) was in the 16th or 17th generation of male descendants from the earliest known Johnne Dykonson of England. [See above.] Source of the last sentence: “Griffith Dickenson and Elizabeth Springall” in “Ancestors of David and Carla Goodloe,” http://www.dickerson-goodloe.com/onlineversion/f795.htm

[12] Eupedia, “Origins, age, spread and ethnic association of European haplogroups and subclades", June, 2009, http://www.eupedia.com/europe/origins_haplogroups_europe.shtml
[13] Henry Harrison, SURNAMES OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: A CONCISE ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY (London, 1912 and 1918; reprinted in Baltimore by Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969; reprinted in Baltimore by Clearfield Company, Inc., 1992), two volumes in one, I:111.

[14] F. L. Cross, editor, THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 379 and 380.

[15] Keith A. Fournier, “The Deacon: From the Altar to the World", http://www.deaconsforlife.org/articles/fournierpermdeac.htm

[17] Patrick Hanks, editor, DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN FAMILY NAMES (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), I:418.

[18] Ibid.


[20] Ibid.

[21] “Many names such as Bishop, Deacon, King, Priest, or Squire are much more likely to have originated as nicknames….The development, as well as the origin, of surnames based on nicknames…seems to have been used by both French and Scandinavian traditions [in England].” Source: Colin D. Rogers, THE SURNAME DETECTIVE: INVESTIGATING SURNAME DISTRIBUTION IN ENGLAND, 1086 – PRESENT DAY, (Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1955), pp. 189 and 212.

[22] Cf. ibid, p. 213.

[23] Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, “The Dickerson Name,” November 5, 2005, http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/polcrt/DickersonName.html
[24] Eupedia, “Origins, age, spread and ethnic association of European haplogroups and subclades,” June, 2009, op. cit; cf. ANCIENT BRITAIN: HISTORICAL MAP, op. cit.

[25] Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, “The Dickerson Name,” op. cit.

[26] Don Dickson, “Origins of the surname Dickson,” op. cit., citing THE COLLINS ENGLISH DICTIONARY; cf. Graham Dickason, “The Dickason Family in South Africa: Genealogical data on the Dickason Family in South Africa and the Branch of that Family in Argentina,” 2003, http://homepage.ntlworld.com/richard.dickason/Files/ORIGINS%20OF%20THE%20NAME%20DICKASON.pdf
[27] Frederick C. Mish, editor, MERRIAM-WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1994), tenth edition, pp. 17a and 321.

[28] Graham Dickason, “The Dickason Family in South Africa: Genealogical data on the Dickason Family in South Africa and the Branch of that Family in Argentina,” op. cit.

[29] Erin McKean, editor, THE NEW OXFORD AMERICAN DICTIONARY (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2005), second edition, p. 469.

[30] Lesley Brown, editor, THE NEW SHORTER OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY ON HISTORICAL PRINCIPLES (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1993), I:1488.