Norman Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Norman Surname Meaning

The Norman surname in England may have derived from the Normans of Normandy who had invaded England with William the Conqueror in 1066; or it may have come from the Old English northmann, being a term describing Scandinavian settlers.

In America the name could also be of Jewish or Swedish or even possibly of Dutch origin. Van Norman and variants were early names found in Dutch New York and Pennsylvania.

Norman Surname Resources on The Internet

Norman Surname Ancestry

  • from Southern England and from Holland
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England.  London provided some early mentions of the Norman name.

London. John Norman was recorded as mayor of London in 1250. A later John Norman, born in Oxfordshire, was in 1453 the first Lord Mayor of London to take a boat to Westminster in order to pledge his allegiance.

James Norman of Blackfriars was a successful timber merchant in London in the mid 1700’s. With the proceeds he bought property in nearby Bromley Common, at the time when it was a dangerous place.

“When James went to work in London he rode on horseback. He would be armed and accompanied by an armed servant. The danger was real. His daughter-in-law had been robbed by footpads on Chislehurst Hill as she returned to Bromley Common after visiting friends.”

The Normans’ house there, The Rookery, was to remain their home until it burnt down in 1946. Via George Warde Norman of this family came the notable Norman banking family, including Montagu Norman who was Governor of the Bank of England from 1920 to 1944.

Elsewhere. John Norman was mayor of Norwich in 1714. When he died ten years later he provided funds In his will for the education of the children of needy relatives in the town.

Norman also appears to have been a name of the southwest, featuring most strongly in Devon and Somerset. Richard Norman, the early emigrant to America, was born in Charminster, Dorset. Normans there were clockmakers and Quakers. And there were many Normans to be found in the Mendip hills, in Somerset, Wiltshire and Berkshire.

There were Normans as well further north. Normans in the village of Duffield in Derbyshire date from the 1500’s. They held Court Farm House for many generations. Normans were also recorded in the nearby Staffordshire villages of Uttoxeter and Abbots Bromley.

America.  Richard Norman, a sea captain and shipwright, was part of a group of settlers from the Dorchester company in Dorset who  came to New England in 1626. He eventually settled in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Later Normans of this family moved to South Carolina and Georgia.

Several Normans came to Virginia during the 1600’s. Some stayed in the area. Others moved onto New Jersey, Ohio, and Illinois. Isaac Norman was born in Virginia in 1682 and he and his wife Frances raised nine children in Culpeper county. Their descendants later spread, in particular to Tennessee and Georgia. This line was traced in Nellie Virginia Norman’s 1972 book History of the Culpeper County Normans.

New Jersey.  Oliver Norman started a forge in Sussex county, New Jersey (by Norman’s Pond) in the years after the Revolutionary War. His father John, also a forgeman, had come to upstate New York from England in the 1740’s. Oliver left his wife and family and took off for Ohio in 1808.

Also from Sussex county, born there in 1796, was Joseph Van Norman, a descendant of the Pennsylvania Van Normans. He subsequently departed for Canada where he started an iron foundry in Normandale, Ontario.

Canada. Normans from Poole in Dorset were early settlers in Newfoundland, John Norman arriving in Brigus sometime in the 1750’s. Thomas Norman of this family was a carpenter and, after a great fire destroyed the center of the capital St. Johns in 1892, he moved there with his family as there was an abundance of work in rebuilding the city.

Australia. Andrew Norman was the anglicized name of a young Norwegian seaman Andreas Olsen who came to Melbourne in 1876 and stayed. He died in 1898 from a horse kick in the abdomen, leaving a young family. His sons Ollie and Harry were both World War One volunteers. Ollie did not come back. Harry did, having been dishonorably discharged. He changed his name to Skinner back in Australia.

Norman Surname Miscellany

John Norman and the London River Procession.  John Norman is considered to be the first lord mayor to go to Westminster by water.  It is thought that his infirmity may have been the reason for the river procession instead of the usual parade.

The historian Humpherus, in describing the procession in 1453, said:

“Norman who, having at his own expense built a noble barge, had it decorated with flags and streamers, in which he was this year rowed by watermen with silver oars, attended by such of the city companies as possessed barges, in a manner so splendid that ‘his barge seemed to burn on the water.’”

The watermen were said to have made John Norman a song of praise, which began: “Rowe the bote, Norman, Rowe to thy Lemman” (where lemman meant sweetheart).

The river procession became popular among Londoners and the practice continued to be held for mayors until 1856. 

John Norman of Norwich.  John Norman was born in Norwich in 1657 and lived in Old Catton. He prospered as a local farmer, landowner and brewer.  He eventually became an alderman and mayor of Norwich.

He died in 1724 and, although he had married twice, had no children. However, he was extremely interested in the education of children and left the bulk of his estate ‘in trust’ to educate the male descendants of his close relatives. According to his wishes, the Norman Endowed School was eventually built for the benefit of his descendants.

The school lasted until 1934 when the funds proved insufficient to maintain it.

Normans of Charminster in Dorset.  The Norman family of Charminster was stalwart in their membership of the Society of Friends in Dorchester. James Norman and his brother Ralph were trustees of the Meeting House there when it was purchased in 1712.  James also held monthly meetings in his own house in Charminster. In his will, proved in 1747, he bequeathed his house to his son James “to give lease and liberty for the people of God called Quakers to keep meetings therein as in my time.”

These Normans were also clockmakers. James Norman of Charminster was the earliest, making 30 hour Grandfather clocks with brass dials and a single hand during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  There was another James Norman of Charminster and Poole and his son Ralph who was apprenticed to James Norman of Poole in 1760.

Some examples of their clocks are to be found at the Dorset collection of clocks in the Mill House Cider Museum.

Isaac Norman of Culpeper County, Virginia.  Isaac Norman, born in 1682 reportedly in Gloucester county, married Frances (by tradition Courtney) and died around 1763.  He lived during the early 1700’s on Flatt Run in what is now Culpeper County, Virginia.

Nearby, Norman’s Ford was an early crossing of the Rapahannock river which was said to have taken its name from Isaac Norman.

“Norman’s Ford, on the Rappahannock River took its name from Isaac Norman of the Stafford family who first settled there and in June 1726 had a land grant on the Culpeper shore of the river.”

Isaac’s parentage is not really known, because of lost records and the similarity of the given names of many of the early Normans in America.

The Normandale Blast Furnace.  Normandale is a township along Lake Erie in Ontario.  The following plaque marks the site of the blast furnace there.

“One of Upper Canada’s most important industrial enterprises, the Normandale ironworks and its blast furnace played a significant role in the early economic development of the province.  Built in 1816-17 by John Mason and enlarged in 1821-22 by John Van Norman, it produced the famous Van Norman cooking stove.  Up to 200 men were employed prior to the closure of the blast furnace in 1847, following the exhaustion of the local bog iron deposits.”

The plaque is located to the south of Van Norman Street in Normandale.  The Van Norman house on Front Road, built in 1842 from the proceeds of the iron foundry, still stands.

George Warde Norman of Bromley.  George Warde Norman joined his father’s timber business after leaving school in 1810, spending much of his time in Norway.  He soon spoke fluent Norwegian, as well as French and Italian.  Charles Darwin spoke of him as “my clever neighbor, Mr. Norman.”  In 1821 he became a Director of the Bank of England, a position he held for fifty years.

Initially, like his father and grandfather before him, George travelled to work in London by horseback. However, after the opening of the Greenwich railway in 1836, he rode to Greenwich and finished his journey by train.

He had played cricket while a schoolboy at Eton and that enthusiasm stayed with him as an adult. He helped found the West Kent cricket club and played in the Kent team until he was in his mid forties.

His home was the Rookery in Bromley, where he lived with ample staff.  The 1851 census recorded a butler, footman, groom, housekeeper, two ladies maids, a nurse, nursery maid, two housemaids, a cook and a kitchen maid.

George died in 1882.  He and his wife Sibella had seven sons. His oldest son George died in the Crimean War.  A younger son, Frederick Henry Norman, was Governor of the Bank of England for nearly 25 years at the beginning of the 20th century.  Another son, Philip Norman, made his name as an artist and historian.

Norman Names

  • John Norman was the Lord Mayor of London in 1453. He was the first Lord Mayor to take a boat to Westminster in order to pledge his allegiance.
  • Robert Norman was a 16th century mariner and compass builder. The crater Norman on the moon was named in his honor.
  • Montagu Norman was Governor of the Bank of England from 1920 to 1944.
  • Marsha Norman is an American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. She won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for her play ‘night Mother.
  • Greg Norman is a well-known Australian golfer, nicknamed “the Great White Shark.”

Norman Numbers Today

  • 30,000 in the UK (most numerous in Berkshire)
  • 25,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Norman and Like Surnames

These were names originally given to outsiders in the British Isles that became surnames.  Thus Walter the Scot became Walter Scott.  Outsiders could also have been Welsh, Irish, French or Flemish.  These are some of the “outsider” surnames which are covered here.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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