Larson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Larson Surname Meaning

Lars is a Scandinavian first name derived originally from the Roman name Laurentius meaning “crowned with laurel.” Lars as a patronymic surname became Larsen in Denmark and Norway, Larsson in Sweden, and generally Larson in America.

Scandinavian surnames were rarely hereditary in the manner of German or British surnames until around the 18th century at the earliest. In fact the use of hereditary surnames passed down from father to son only became mandatory in the mid-19th century. Thus it was still the case that Lars Paulsen who died in Norway in 1855 could be the father of Ole Larson who departed for America ten years later.

Larson Surname Resources on The Internet

Larson Surname Ancestry

  • from Norway, Sweden and Denmark
  • to America, Canada and Australia

Larson numbers today are around 280,000 in Scandinavia (Larsen and Larsson) and 90,000 in America (Larson and to a lesser extent Larsen). Larsons starting arriving in America when the Scandinavian immigration began in the 1840’s.

America. Iowa, and in particular Clayton county in Iowa, appears to have been a first port of call for Norwegian Larsons in America:

  • Peter Larson arrived at St. Olaf in 1849. His line was covered in Norma Gilbertson’s 1980 book Larson Family History.
  • while Holga and Sarah Larson had arrived in 1848 and made their home in McGregor. Their son John had the leading boot and shoe store in the town.

Laur Larsen was a Lutheran minister and teacher who came first to St. Louis before making his home in Decatur where he was the President of Luther College from 1862 to 1902.

However, the main Larson influx was to be into the Midwestern states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Minnesota.  This state still has the largest number of Larsons in America. It was mainly Swedes who came there. In fact Kirsten Larson was a fictitious Swedish immigrant who settled with her family in 1854 in what was then Minnesota territory.

Among the real Swedes who emigrated to Minnesota were:

  • Nels Larson and his family who came to Wright county in 1867. Here they cleared their land and in time had a well cultivated farm.
  • Lars and Anna Larson who came to a Swedish settlement at Lake Park in Becker county in 1876. However, they found farming in Minnesota tough and in 1887 moved onto another Swedish settlement in the San Joaquin valley of California.
  • while Bengt Larson arrived around 1890 and made his home at Little Falls in Morrison county. His son Paul started the Larson Boat works along the Mississippi river in 1925 and kept on going, building mainly pleasure boats, until his retirement in 1976. By then Little Falls was being called “the small-boat capital of the world.”

Wisconsin.  By contrast, Wisconsin attracted immigrants from Denmark and Norway. They included:

  • Hans and Karen Larson from Norway who came to Jefferson county in 1855 and farmed there for fifteen years before moving onto a new homestead in Minnesota.
  • John and Annie Larson from Norway who first settled in 1861 in Columbia county where John worked as a carpenter. In 1872 they too moved to Minnesota, settling in Yellow Medicine county.
  • Ole Larson from Norway who arrived in 1865 and made his home near Coon Prairie in Vernon county. He lived there until his death in 1908.
  • James Larson, a ship captain and shipbuilder from Denmark, who came in 1871 and settled in Marinette county. He was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1913.
  • Nels Larson, also from Denmark, who came with his parents in 1874 and settled in Winnebago county. He too served in the Wisconsin State Assembly, at various times between 1921 and 1937. 
  • and Lars Larson, a merchant seaman from Norway, who came to Wisconsin in 1883 and bought farming land at Abbotsford in Clark county. His son Martin migrated north to a new homestead near Sturgis in Saskatchewan in 1912.

California. Larsons also came to California, either directly from Scandinavia or second or third generation Larsons who had come there from the Midwest.

Carl Larsen came to San Francisco from Denmark around 1870 and by the early 1900’s was a major landowner in the city’s Sunset District. Larsen Park there was his legacy. Charles Larson, who had arrived in San Francisco from Sweden in 1887, became by the early 1900’s a prominent merchant in the town of Eureka north of the city.

Further north in the 1950’s in Tacoma, Washington lived Verner Larson, the son of a Swedish immigrant into Michigan around 1900. Verner was the father of the cartoonist Gary Larson, best known as the creator of The Far Side.

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

Many in fact came from America. Bernard Larson had arrived in North Dakota from Sweden in 1878. He left in 1902 for Saskatchewan where he founded the town of Lang (by convincing the Canadian Pacific Railway to locate a railway siding on his land).

Hans Larson departed Minnesota for Saskatchewan in 1904. His son Walt Larson was a cattle rancher near Braken from the 1920’s until his retirement in 1968. Henry Larson meanwhile came from Yellow Medicine county, Minnesota to Fosstown, Saskatchewan in 1912.

Australia.  Niels Larson from Norway had come to Australia in the 1850’s at the height of the gold rush.  He later changed his name to Lawson.  His son Henry became a very popular poet in Australia.  Crowds lined the streets on his death in 1922 to say farewell to Australia’s “poet of the people.”

Larson Surname Miscellany

Larsons, Larsens, and Larssons Today

Numbers (000’s) Larson Larsen Larsson
Denmark   100
Norway    44
Sweden   135
America    63    27

Kirsten Larson the Doll.  Included among the American Girl line of 18-inch dolls released by Pleasant Company in 1986 was Kirsten Larson.

Kirsten Larson is a Swedish immigrant who settled in the Minnesota territory in 1854 with her extended family.  She faced the hardships, challenges, and adaptations necessary to adjust to life in America, such as learning to speak English.  Changes have included making a new friend outside of her own “world” and the arrival of a new baby.

Kirsten was one of the first three dolls produced by American Girl in 1986.  Unlike many of the dolls, Kirsten’s books have maintained their original illustrations.

Ole Larson – from Norway to Wisconsin.  In 1865 Ole Larson departed Norway with his widowed mother and his two older sisters on the brig Atalana for America.  At 24 years of age, Ole was the youngest but, as the only male, undoubtedly the leader of this family group.  After landing in Quebec, they made their way by the Great Lakes and overland to western Wisconsin.

Their destination was the Norwegian colony at Coon Prairie in Vernon county.  This settlement was not only Norwegian, but was made up almost entirely of Gudbrandsadalers, no doubt because of the distinctive dialect spoken by residents of that region.

By 1870, five years after his arrival, Ole had acquired 80 acres of land about 25 miles north of Coon Prairie, in what seems to have been a spin-off settlement of Gudbrandsdal, Norwegians centered around the Brush Creek Lutheran Church near the town of Ontario.  There he operated a dairy farm on his land.

Ole and his wife Anne raised six children, four of whom survived to adulthood. After Anne died in 1885, Ole married Helena, who may have been his housekeeper, and had seven more children.

Ole died in 1908 and was buried next to his first wife Anne at Brush Creek church. Helena was buried a few yards away.

Nels Larson – from Sweden to Minnesota.  Nels Larson, his wife Marie, and their three boys departed Sweden in 1866 for America. After a long and tedious voyage of seven weeks, they reached Quebec and from there went to Montreal and thence to Detroit, Michigan.

They were poor and just starting in life in a new world. But by doing such work as he could find along the way, Nels managed to get his family to the Mississippi river, where they took a boat to St. Paul and from there went to Carver county, Minnesota.

In the spring of 1867, the family came by team to Wright county where Nels secured employment on the railroad. Later in the spring, his wife left one son there and walked with her other two sons back to Carver county, shearing sheep and working by the day to earn a little ready cash.

After the railroad came through, Nels secured forty acres of land in Buffalo township and the family settled there. With an ox team they began to clear the land and in time had a well cultivated farm.

Nels Larson was born in 1826 and died in 1914.  He was a deacon at the Lutheran church.

Reader Feedback – Laura Larsen from Denmark to America.  My great grandmother’s maiden name was Larsen. She sailed to America around 1900 when she was only 16 years old. She did make it back to Denmark. But Denmark was very poor at the time and her father couldn’t feed her.  So she came to work in the USA for a nice Jewish family that owned a shop. Her name after marriage was Laura Larsen Buchanan.

Erik Roark (

Carl Larsen the Gentle Dane of San Francisco.  Carl Larsen came to San Francisco from Denmark in his late 20’s, around 1870, and worked as a carpenter.  In 1879 he started the Tivoli Café downtown on Eddy Street.  A popular restaurant, the Tivoli Café was destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. Undaunted, Larsen rebuilt and opened the Tivoli Café and the Hotel Larsen.

Larsen also became a large landowner in the Sunset District of San Francisco.   Plenty of land had become available in these “Outside Lands” in the late 1800’s. Larsen started buying in 1888 and by 1910 he owned fourteen entire city blocks and lots that totaled about nine more blocks.  At this time, all of the land was sand dunes.  Few of the streets were cut through and accessibility was difficult.

He operated a chicken ranch on one square block in this district.  Each morning a horse-drawn carriage took eggs from the chicken ranch to the Tivoli Café downtown, probably along the only through road in the Sunset, the Central Ocean Road.  Tivoli Café ads boasted, “Fresh Eggs from Sunset Ranch.” Once a year at Easter, the Larsen chicken ranch hosted a large party for the neighborhood, with open bars and tables of food.

Larsen is best remembered as the donor in 1926 of Larsen Park, two blocks between 19th and 20th Avenues and between Ulloa and Wawona Streets. A bronze plaque, mounted on a large stone, displays a bust of Carl Larsen in this park. 

Walt Larson, Saskatchewan Cattle Man.  The youngest child of Hans Larson, Walt was born in 1891 in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota and came north to Saskatchewan in Canada for the first time when he was only thirteen years old.

Soon he was working as a ranch hand with what became the Famous 76 Ranch.  He had a natural way with horses and that began a lifestyle that he would chase for the rest of his life.

People remembered the young Walt at that time, a colorful figure in his big black Stetson riding tall and straight in the saddle.  He not only cowboyed and ranched, but often competed in stampedes and rodeos and would win money in the saddle bronco events and working as a pickup man.

In the winter of 1915-16 Walt gathered cattle that had wintered on the Frenchman river south of Shaunavon.  Walt would tell stories of this devastating winter where temperatures dipped regularly down to 50 below and cows were freezing right in their tracks. Walt went to his grave with frostbite scars from that winter.

In 1922 he bought his own tract of land along the Frenchman river. His cattle ranching began at that time with a load of “Manitoba doggies,” and grew over the next sixty years to one of the best commercial herds of Angus cattle in the country.  He had introduced Aberdeen Angus blood to his herd during the 1930’s. Over the years twelve head cattle were honored at the Toronto Royal Fair. He also won a first pride in the heavyweight class at the Chicago International show.

Walt remained on his ranch until 1968 and died in Montana nine years later.

Larson Names

  • John Augustus Larson was the Police Officer in Berkeley, California who in the 1920’s invented the modern polygraph for use in forensic investigations. 
  • Don Larsen, pitching in the 1956 World Series, is the only pitcher to have a no-hitter and perfect game in World Series baseball history. 
  • Gary Larson is an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of The Far Side.

Larson Numbers Today

  • 90,000 in America (most numerous in Minnesota)
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Larson and Like Surnames

These were originally Scandinavian patronymic surnames, with conversion usually from the Scandinavian “-sen” and “-sson” to the American “-son” on arrival or soon afterwards.  Here are some of the Scandinavian surnames that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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