Carlson Surname Genealogy

Karl or Carl is a Scandinavian
first name that is derived from the German word karl
meaning “man” or “free man.”
Karl/Carl as a patronymic surname became Karlsson/Carlsson in
less frequently Karlsen/Carlsen in Denmark and Norway.
Ingvar Carlsson was the Swedish Prime
Minister in the 1990’s; while Magnus Carlsen from Norway is the current
chess champion.
Scandinavian surnames were rarely
hereditary in the manner of German or British surnames until the 18th
at the earliest.  In fact the use of hereditary surnames that were
down from father to son only became mandatory in the mid-19th century.  Thus it was that Carl and Helga Erickson came to America in 1861 with their son Swan Carlson.

Carlson Resources on

Carlson Ancestry

is the third most common
surname in Sweden.  Swedish immigration
to America began in the 1850’s.  Many
came from the province of Smaland in southern Sweden where there had
been much
social distress and poverty at that time.

However, the Karlssons or Carlssons arriving in America
invariably had
their spelling changed to Carlson.  Thus
Emil Karlsson who came through Elis Island in 1922 had his name changed
Karlsson to Carlson at that time. Carlsons
in America number around 60,000.

America.  Swedes like the Carlsons
generally made for
the American Midwest.  The largest number
then and still today are to be found in Minnesota.

Minnesota.  Many came, like Gustaf
Carlson in 1858, with
little money and no English.

“Gustaf Carlson arrived in Winona county with only
a few hundred dollars.  Neither he nor
his family could speak a word of English and knew nothing of the
customs of the
land.  Yet he secured some land, owned a
fine farm, and prospered.”

Carl Carlson made his home in Stockholm township in
Wright county in 1867.  He cleared the
land for his farm and helped in the building of the Lutheran church.  His son Carl moved
to Cokato in 1888 and ran the Western Hotel there for
twenty-five years.

Carlson meanwhile came with his family to Hibbing, Minnesota in 1893 in
the early
days of the mining boom town on the Mesabi iron range.
Lois Carlson Willand’s 2007 book The Carlson Family
in Hibbing
his family.

Charles Carlson arrived in the 1890’s and made
his home in Minneapolis.  He went to work
for a wholesale grocery firm and later started his own neighborhood
store.   His son Curt Carlson, born in 1914,
started a retail trading stamp business
during the Great Depression which, after the War, expanded into one of the largest
family-held corporations in America.

Leroy F. Carlson,
born in 1892, opened the Main Motors car dealership in Anoka in 1919
and it has
remained in family hands ever since.  A
descendant Gretchen Carlson was crowned Miss America in 1989 and later
became a
TV commentator.

Arne Carlson became
Governor of Minnesota in 1990.  He had,
however, been born to Swedish immigrant parents in New York and had
first come
to Minnesota as a graduate student in 1957.

Kansas.  Carlsons also made it
to Kansas.  Swan Carlson came to farm in Saline county in 1869.  John August Carlson, just a boy at the time,
came in the same year.  He worked as a
cattle herder and farm hand and then in the packing business in Kansas
City.  Eventually, in 1898, he was able
to buy farming land in Wyandotte county.

Charles and Anna Carlson arrived in the
1890’s and made their home near Concordia in Cloud county.
Their son Frank Carlson
was a farmer who accidentally became a politician.

“Frank Carlson served as Governor of Kansas, Kansas
State Representative,
US Representative, and US Senator for Kansas.
He is the only Kansan to have held all four offices.  His political career spanned forty years,
beginning in November 1928 and ending in January 1969.”

early in California, first arriving in San Francisco by sea in the
1840’s and
then starting a hotel up the coast in Mendocino county.

Among other Carlsons found West were:

  • Billy Carlson who came to San
    Francisco from Sweden in 1870.  He can be
    considered one of the founders of San Diego and served as its mayor
    during the
    1890’s.  However, he was a land
    speculator of dubious practices and spent time in federal prison.
  • Eddie
    Carlson, born in Tacoma, Washington in 1911, who became a civic leader
    Seattle and later ran United Airlines.  
  • and Paul Carlson, the son of Swedish
    immigrants Gustav and Ruth Carlson, who was born in Culver City in
    1928.  He was a medical missionary in the
    Congo murdered by rebel insurgents in 1964.  He
    is commemorated by the Carlson Park in
    Culver City today.

Canada.  The Canadian West opened up
later than the American West so that Carlsons arrived there later.

Nels Carlson came to Manitoba from Sweden in
1888.  After trying different things, he
made his home in Whitewater in 1891 and brought his wife and children
over from
Sweden.  In 1932 Nels and Karna Carlson
celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in Whitewater.

Sven and Huloa Carlson came to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1911.  They
homesteaded at Spearhill nearby.   Their story was covered in
Dianne Olmstead’s 1996 book Journey
in the Footstps of Our Forefathers

Some arrived from
Emil Carlson came from Illinois
to Melville, Saskatchewan in 1912; Anton Carlson from South Dakota to
Preeceville, Saskatchewan around the year 1920; and Victor Carlson from
Minnesota to Vancouver at a slightly later date

Carlson Miscellany

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

Carlson Names

Frank Carlson served as Governor and as
Senator of Kansas in a political career that lasted from 1928 to 1969.
Chester Carlson
was the inventor of the
photocopying process which he patented in 1937 and which was later
taken up by
the Xerox Corporation.  
Curt Carlson
expanded his retail
trading stamp business started in Minneapolis in 1938
into one of the largest
family-held corporations in America.
was a Seattle business executive who organized the 1962
World’s Fair and later became the CEO of United Airlines

Select Carlsons Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 60,000 in America (most numerous in Minnesota)
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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