Olson Surname Genealogy

always been a popular Scandinavian name, in part due to the fame of
St.Olaf, King of
Norway, who brought Christianity to the country in the 11th century. The Norse root of the name is anleifr
meaning “ancestor and heir.”
The main
resulting surnames have been Olsen in Norway
and Denmark and Olsson in Sweden, meaning the son of Olaf or Ole.
Notable Norwegian Olsens have been Fred Olsen, the founder of
the Fred
Olsen shipping line. and O.T. Olsen, the promoter of the 730 kilometer
Nordland railway line running down Norway from Trondheim.  The spelling
has tended to become Olson in America.

Olson Resources on

Olson Ancestry

The Scandinavian population of
Olssons and Olsens in Sweden, Norway and Denmark is approximately
340,000 today. It is estimated that some 23,000 made the journey
to America, with the peak years of migration being in the late
1800’s. On arrival most anglicized their name to Olson.
Some remained Olsen. The Olson population in America,
including Olsen, is close to 90,000 today.

England and Scotland. The
Olsen name has been found in England and Scotland, although in small
numbers, as a result of the earlier Viking invasions in the 10th and
11th centuries. It has cropped up in NE Scotland, in Caithness
and Sutherland, and in NE England, in Northumberland and Durham.

America. Olsons headed in
the 19th century to the Midwest, primarily to Minnesota, Wisconsin and
Illinois. Some
made it west, to Utah and California.
There were also Olsons on the East Coast in Maine.

Midwest. One early
arrival was Jonas Olson from Westergötland
in Sweden who came to America in 1861, married, and was homesteading in
Alfsborg township in Sibley county, Minnesota three years later.

farmed there, planting, cultivating, and
harvesting with hand tools, usually homemade. The
only fuel available was wood. They raised
nine children on the farm. All the nine
children were raised as devout
Christians and abstained from alcohol.”

Olsons farmed there until Jonas’s retirement in 1908 at the age of 77.

Olson families from Norway have also had long
rural Minnesota

  • one
    Olson family settled in Jackson
    county. Their Olson-Staabakken cabin, the
    oldest structure in the county, was donated by Emmet Olson in 1927 and
    is to be
    found in Ashley Park.
  • while
    Halvor Olson arrived
    in Minnesota in 1889 and later homesteaded in rural Madison. He lost his farm during the Great Depression but
    then managed to buy it back. His
    celebrated the Halvor and Mary farm centennial in 2003

Floyd B. Olson
was a second generation American who grew up on Minneapolis’s North
Side. His immigrant father from Trondheim in Norway had eked out
a living there as a railroad checker. But Floyd trained to be a
lawyer, became the leader of Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party, and was
the much-loved Governor of the state at the time of the Great

West. Some like Hans
from Norway had been drawn west by gold fever. He arrived in California in 1853 and spent most of his
life wandering from one
mining camp to another before finally settling in the Los Angeles area
southern California.

A few were Mormons. Jorgen and Kirsten
Olsen had heard the word by Mormon
preachers in Odense, Denmark in 1865 and departed for Salt Lake, Utah
three years

departed Denmark on the sailing
ship Emerald Isle which
carried 876 emigrants to New York. Thirty seven
deaths occurred on the ocean, their
grandson being one of the victims. The
sank on the way back.
Kirsten and their children walked most
of the way across the plains,
Jorgen being sick with stomach trouble. They
arrived in
Salt Lake City with only $1.50 to their name.

Mormon convert from Denmark was George Olson who made his home
his wife Delilah
Fillmore, Utah. One son Edmond was a noted pioneer and writer in
Fillmore. Another son Culbert renounced the Mormon faith and
moved to Los Angeles in 1920. He became Governor of California in

and Anna Olson left Sweden
in 1888 and headed directly for California. T
bought 22 acres of land near Kingsburg in California’s Central Valley
and started a legacy in stone fruit farming, Olson Fruit Farms, that has
continued until today.

Stuart Olson Farms is a fourth generation family
farm located outside Salem, Oregon in the Willamette Valley. Bill
Olson, Stuart’s father, began farming with his uncles in the West Salem
in the 1930’s. Another Olsen family in the Willamette
Valley, descended from farmers who had moved west from South Dakota,
operate the Olsen Family Vineyards.

John Olson was an early settler in
the New Sweden community in Maine, arriving there in 1871. He was
farmer and violin maker whose poem of his voyage from Sweden to America
been preserved.

A better-known John Olson was the sailor from Sweden who
landed ashore one cold winter’s day in 1892 and met and married a young
in Cushing. Their home, Olson House, and family was made
famous by the
painter Andrew Wyeth.

Canada. The
rural community of Gimli in southern Manitoba
was once known as New Iceland as it was home to the largest
concentration of people
of Icelandic ancestry outside Iceland. Included
in their number had been one family who arrived in 1876 and adopted the
family name
of Olson. Carl Olson, also Icelandic, had
been born in Minnesota and came to Gimli in 1913 as a Lutheran
minister. He later moved onto Saskatchewan.

Africa. Ole Olsen from
Stavanger was among those
recruited in Norway by Captain Ludvig Larsen to sail on the Agnes
in 1872 to Madagascar and set up a
trading post there. His
family later joined him and they stayed at
Tulear until 1882 when they relocated to Durban. Another
Olsen line at Tulear began with John Achille
Olsen from Trondheim who had married the daughter of a local chieftain
and died there
in 1903. His
nephew George moved to New Zealand and made
a name for himself as a boxer

Olson Miscellany

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

Olson Names

Floyd B. Olson was Governor of Minnesota from 1931 to 1936. As
leader of the Farmer-Labor Party, he pursued an activist agenda to ease
the impact of the Great Depression.
was an American poet of the first half of the 20th century, a
between older modernist poets such as Ezra Pound and the Beat

was a well-known American radio and TV
personality from the early 1960’s to the mid-1980’s.
Merlin Olsen
was an
American NFL football player and commentator

Olsons Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Durham)
  • 89,000 in America (most numerous in Minnesota)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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