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2,405 study surnames with us
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About the study

My study and research into Dadswell history and genealogy began in 1973. It had long been suspected that all Dadswells were/are related and research soon confirmed this, as it became apparent that all descend from one couple who settled in Rotherfield Parish, Sussex, ca1590. Within a few years I realized I had a one-name study in progress and in 1981 joined the Guild. John Dadswell of Sussex (1879-1934), did some work around 1930 and I used his notes and charts as a base upon which to build my research.

Variant names

Dodswell is the most common variant or misspelling, but not all Dodswells are Dadswells, as the 'o' spelling is also a variant of the original Dowdeswell. Dodswells found in records (mainly census, parish registers, civil registrations) with a Sussex connection are usually Dadswells.

Name origin

Dadswell is a Sussex name born and bred, the name and spelling coming into use in the late 17th century and is a derivation of Dowdeswell, a place in Gloucestershire. The evolution of the name may be found in the Rotherfield, Sussex, parish registers: Doudeswell - Doudswell - Dodeswell - Dodswell - Dadswell.

Although a comparatively new surname, Dadswell has 8th century roots. In the Doomsday Book 1086, the name of the manor in Gloucestershire is listed as Dodesuuelle. This same place may be found in Anglo-Saxon charters ca781-798 as Dogodeswellan, the suggested meaning: 'at Dogod's well'. A grant of land is recorded in the Charters of Worcester Monastary whereby Abbot Hedda conferred out of his own inheritance, Dogodes Well to his relative Heathored, 'for the good of his soul and that of his kinsman'. Birch's Cartularium Saxonicum contains a transcript of this document or will, confirming Hedda's bequest.

The establishment of the Sussex Dadswell family came close to not happening. Robert Doudeswell, according to family lore, was a cattle dealer from the north who settled in Rotherfield Parish sometime in the last decade of the 16th century. He married twice; however, of the several children of both marriages only one son survived to adulthood and married. This son followed the same pattern of marrying twice with only one son surviving, Edward Dodswell/Dadswell. Fortunately, for the continuance of the name, Edward and his wife, Elizabeth, produced a large family, including three sons from whom all Dadswells descend and for this reason, this couple has been dubbed 'the father and mother of all Dadswells'.

Historical occurrences of the name

Dadswell clockmakers: Thomas Dadswell of Burwash (1688-1752); Thomas Dadswell I of East Grinstead (1719-1769); Thomas Dadswell II of East Grinstead (1749-1794); John Dadswell of Burwash 1727-1789); Edward Dadswell of Eastbourne (1754-1802).

William James Martin Dadswell (1886-1981) RSPCA Inspector and butcher by trade. He and his partner paved the way for legislation enforcing humane animal slaughter, touring the country for years campaigning for their cause, resulting in the Slaughter of Animals Bill, 1933.

Lyndon Raymond Dadswell (1908-1986) renowned Australian sculptor and artist. Several examples of his work are displayed in the Australian War Museum, Canberra.

James Henry Dadswell (1828-1911) served in the Royal Navy. In 1858 he joined a ship bound for the Cape of Good Hope and was a member of the crew that took David Livingstone up the Zambezi.

Thomas William Dadswell (1828-1908) established Dadswells Bridge, Victoria, Australia.

George Dadswell (1886-1938) invented and patented (1924) a type of 'trafficator' for automobiles, a moveable red, glass hand known as a Waydicator, an early version of modern directional signals.

Name frequency

Dadswell numbers among the more uncommon surnames. Over the years the largest number of persons bearing the name have resided in Sussex, as is evident in the numbers counted in the UK census returns 1861-1901. In 1861, the total number with the surname in England found to date, is 333, 66% in Sussex. Although the largest number of Dadswells found 1861-1901 continued to live in Sussex, by 1901 of a total of 614, 40% were in Sussex. In each census, Kent had the next largest number, followed by London and Middlesex. Beginning with the 1881 census, a noticeable number of Dadswells began to be counted in Surrey.

Distribution of the name

Over the years, England continues to be the home of the largest number of Dadswells. Worldwide, the name is quite uncommon, the distribution of emigrant families up to WWII as follows.

Canada - 19 known immigrant families or couples and single persons who later established families, mainly to Ontario where most reside today; next largest group in British Columbia.

Australia - 14 known, mainly settled Victoria and New South Wales; today equally spread in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

United States - 11 known, mainly settled State of New York Most persons today live New York or Florida and southern states, followed by Michigan.

South Africa - 3 known families, mainly to Johannasburg and Cape Town area; descendants live same area.

New Zealand - Only 1 known family Ireland - 1 family resides there


Civil Registration, birth, marriage, death indexes UK: 1837-2002. Canada: Ontario 1869-1932; BC some. Australia: New South Wales 1846-1940; Victoria 1838-1895.

Census Extractions from UK: 1841-1901; US: 1860-1930; Canada: some Ontario 1861-1901

Parish Registers, baptisms, marriages, burials: many Sussex; some Kent. Other parish records, such as Overseers accounts; Poor Rate Books; Land Tax Assessments. Extracts from Sussex non-comformist registers.

Rotherfield manor Court records 1631-1753

Transcripts of Wills and Administrations: Sussex probates up to 1858; Probate Office 1858-1900; PCC pre 1858

Military: Commonwealth War Grave Commission records; WWI Medal Rolls; UK, Canada, Australia Honour Rolls; some Boer War

Miscellaneous records: passenger lists, directories, London Gazette, marriage and burial indexes.