The Dickson or Dixon (and other derivates)
family name was first found in Scotland. Early records show Thomas Dicson, a
follower of the Douglas clan, at the capture of Castle Douglas in 1307.
Although the name was Scottish in it's origin, with the
spelling of Dicson or Dickson (the most common usage in Scotland
today), being a Borders counties name it also spread to the north
and midlands of England to become a popular family name with the
spelling of Dixon.
Distribution of the Dixon and Dickson name
The high proportion of the Dixon name appearing in the English northern counties in 1881 is clearly displayed above
while the 1998 distribution of the Dixon name continues to show a large distribution in the northern counties of England.
The usage of the original Dickson form of the name in Scotland in 1881 is clearly shown above
and displays the significant presentation of the name in the eastern Scottish border and Lothians areas
the 1998 distribution continues to show a significant distribution of the name in parts of the Lothians and coast to coast across the Scottish borders areas.
Internationally, Public Profiler shows that the UK continues to be home to the Dixon name with large numbers also to be found in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Ireland. The Dickson name, however, is stronger in Australia and New Zealand than in the UK with again significant popualtions in Canada, the United States and Ireland. Although all the foregoing are English speaking countries, both forms of the name appear in places such as Denmark, Switzerland and Spain with the Dixon form also found in France and the Dickson form in Sweden.
It was during the 11th century that the use of surnames was
introduced to the British Isles by the Normans. They were usually
local (a place or landmark), patronymic ("son of"), a
trade or profession name, or a nickname.
The name Dixon/Dickson is a patronymic name, meaning
"Dick's son" or "son of Dick". Coming from
Scotland it might seem strange that it is not
"MacDick", but this is simply explained again by it's
The ancient family motto is said to be "Fortes
Fortuna Juvat", which is Latin for "Fortune
Helps the Brave".
In his book The Border and Riding Clans and a
Shorter History of Clan Dixon, (published by Albany,
New York, 1888) B. Homer Dixon wrote:-
"In a charter from King Robert Bruce about A.D. 1306
to Thomas Dickson it [the name] occurs as Filius Ricardi (son of
Richard) and the Charter is endorsed Carta Thomas fil Dick."
"Nesbit in his Heraldry (Edinburgh, 1722) says 'The
Dicksons are descended from one Richard Keith, said to be a son
of the family of Keith's Earls Marshalls of Scotland.' and in
proof thereof carry the chief of Keith Marischal. This Richard
was commonly called Dick and the 'son' was styled after him. The
affix of son in the Lowlands answering to the prefix Mac in the
Because of the connection to Richard Keith, the descendants of
Thomas Dickson are considered part of the Clan
Keith and use their tartan.
Clan Keith has the Latin motto "Veritas Vincit,"
which translates "Truth Conquers."
For three centuries the Keith family home was Dunottar
Castle near Stonehaven.
Thomas Dickson himself has quite a history. He was
associated in some way with William
Wallace (of "Braveheart"),
and he was killed by the English in 1307 in battle. Tradition
states that he was slashed across the abdomen but continued to
fight holding the abdominal wound closed with one hand until he
finally dropped dead. He is buried in the churchyard of St. Bride
of Douglas, and his marker shows him with a sword in one hand and
holding his belly with the other. Robert de Brus
(Bruce) had made him Castellan of Castle Douglas the year
before he was killed.
For centuries clans (or families) in the border areas of Scotland and England were known for the raids they undertook cross border (or sometime simply cross clan) plundering the property of other families. These raids went on unchecked - and sometimes encouraged - by the governments in both Scotland and England.
The clans involved in this raiding were known as the Border Reivers. The Dixons, although small in number compared to other family grouping, were part of Border Reiver history. Their territory was to the extreme south-east of the Scottish Borders in the area which became known as the East Marches.
It was not until King James VI of Scotland added the territory of England to his Kingdom that law and order was brought to bear in the troublesome border area.
Border Clan Family Names