Canadian mother and daughter 'may be direct descendants of bachelor surveyor Jeremiah Dixon' (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Canadian mother and daughter 'may be direct descendants of bachelor surveyor Jeremiah Dixon'
A CANADIAN mother and daughter flew to the North-East after being told they may be direct descendants of one of the region's most famous sons.
Surveyor and scientist Jeremiah Dixon found fame in the 18th century for his work with Charles Mason plotting what became known as the Mason-Dixon line, which set the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the USA.
Dixon, who lived in Cockfield, County Durham, never married and died aged just 46.
However, research carried out as part of celebrations to mark 250th anniversary of the start of work on the Mason-Dixon line has thrown up the intriguing possibility that he may have left a family.
Jonathan Peacock, who spent two years looking into Dixon's life for an exhibition staged at The Bowes Museum staged earlier this year, said an unusual entry in the surveyor's will hinted at a family.
“When we had the conference of the Dixon family at the museum in June, it was put to me that I ought to look into a strange entry in the will which left property to a Margaret Bland, in favour of her two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.
“Dixon became quite rich. He was paid a guinea a day for his work in the US and he also had earnings from surveying the Raby Estate on his return and also his work for the Royal Society.
“He was a single man, lived at home and invested his money in property in Bishop Auckland.”
Mr Peacock's research into Mary Bland drew a blank, but he managed to trace the line of Elizabeth Bland's family after she had married a Marwood farmer called William Thompson.
“I got to a John Howie Thompson and found someone else was also trying to research him.”
This turned out to be a Canadian woman, Janet Helgason, who lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
Mr Peacock got in touch with her, and explained how she – and her daughter Jodie - could be Dixon's direct descendants.
“She became totally enthused and came over in later September with Jodie,” he said.
Mr Peacock said unfortunately, it is unlikely it will ever be proved if the Helgasons are directly related to Jeremiah Dixon.
“We talked about DNA tests, but Jeremiah's body is buried in the grounds of a former Quaker house in Staindrop, which is now a private garden.
“It was also an unmarked grave – so we would have to dig up the whole garden – so we cannot prove it. However, it would explain a very odd bequest,” he said.
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