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Meaning : This surname means "Son of John". Through time, the Johnson surname was very popular through Europe's Christian community because of many Christian saints, such as John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. The suffix meaning son takes on different variations depending on the country of origin. The Norway : 'sen', English : 'son', Germany : 'sohn', and Sweden : 'sson'.
Variations : Johnstone, Johannsan, MacSwane
Origins : England, Ireland, Scottland, Sweden

Brief History : People started using the Johnson surname after the Norman conquest of 1066. An area near the border of Britain and Scotland was called Johnstown. Many of the people who called that area home assumed variations of this surname. The first known record of a Johnson was found on a document dated between 1195 and 1241, noting that William Bruce, Lord of Annandale bestowed a parcel of land to Gilbert, son of John, in Annandale.

During a period of unrest, the Johnson clan found itself in a war with the Maxwells over land rights near the border of Britain and Scotland. In an effort to pacify the borders, British forces, under the command of James I, disbanded the warring tribes. As a result, the Johnson people were pushed into into Ireland near Ulster. Their reputation as a warring tribe preceded them. Since these people were continually defending their lands, they moved around a lot and lived in well fortified buildings.

Earliest European Record of the Johnson Surname :
  • John Jonesone - from Surrey in 1287
  • Wautier Jonnesone - Berwick in 1296
  • Hartmann Gross Johannisson - recorded in 1344

  • The Country Origins of the Johnson Surname
    The Smith surname primarily originates from such countries as England, Ireland, Scotland, and Germany. Throughout the ages, the Smith surname maintains its position as the most popular surname in the United States and Great Britain. Still holding a great majority of Smith's or MacGowan's in Ireland, the country lists the Smith surname as 5th popular.
    England/Scotland : After the invasion of the Normans, and area bordering Britain and Scotland is known as Johnstown. Many of these people moved on after disputes with a neighboring tribe, the Maxwells ended when James I moved the Johnson out of this area.
    Sweden/Norway : Originally, the Johnson people are believed to be from Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweden. Around the time of England's Normandy invasion in 1066, the practice of Christianity spread across Scandinavia, where the people previously worshiped pagan idols. Since John was one of Jesus' most notable disciples, the name became very popular among Christians. Then people started taking on surnames that were a tribute to the family's patriarch, such as "son" of John or "dotter" of John, if the descendant was female. Most of the people who remained in Scandinavia after the exploits of William the Conquerer were farmers.
    Ireland : In 1610, many of the Johnson living on the Britain/Scotland border were forced into Ireland by King James I. With death warrants issued for many Johnsons, these people resorted to settling in Ulster as planters. Some eventually left for America due to their reputation as a warring tribe.

    The surname MacShane is connected to the Johnson surname due to its phonetic meaning. Translated into French, Shane means Sean which in turn is the English variation for John. The O'Neils were also intermingled with the MacShane family. During the 12th century, the MacShanes were documented in a census as, "Noble, chiefly, and a sept of the O'Neils."

    The First Johnson or Johnstones to Migrate to America
    Many Johnsons came to America from Ireland to seek religious freedom to practice their protestant ways. Many traveled west and settled new lands as soon as they arrived in the American ports. Those arriving from England, mostly settled in the South where the English colonies were located. When the Revolutionary War broke out most that were devout to England migrated to Canada. The pioneering spirit of the Johnson positioned them in history as America's early settlers. For example, Samuel Johnson is listed as a founder of Johnson City, Indiana in 1822.

  • Widow Johnson - 1623 - Settled in Virginia

  • Albert Johnson - 1682 - Settled in Maryland

  • Samuel Johnson - 1819 - Born on 1/29/1790 came from Ireland with his family and helped settle Johnson City, Indiana in 1822.

  • John MacShane - 20th century - An immigrant from Ireland, who built the Pentagon and owned the Barclay Hotel in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

  • John Johnson and Ragnhild Olson Johnson. - 1876 - Both born in Norway, but emigrated to America in 1870s. Ragnhild died in Bremen, Pine County, Minnesota.

  • Famous and Notable People with the Johnson Surname
    Andrew Johnson
    Birth : December 29, 1808 in Raleigh, North Carolina
    Death : July 31, 1875
    Parents : Jacob Johnson and Mary McDonough
    Foremost, Andrew Johnson is known as the 17th President of the United States, which he assumed upon the death of President Abraham Lincoln. Born into poverty in the South, Johnson ran from indentured servitude to the town of Greenville, Tennessee during his youth. He taught himself to read and write, then worked his way into politics as a Senator and then Vice President. As President, he took on the difficult task of reconstructing the South during the aftermath of the Civil War.
    Caryn Elaine Johnson (aka Whoopie Goldberg)
    Birth : November 13, 1955 in New York City, New York
    Death : Robert James Johnson and Emma Harris
    Parents : Edward Smith and Catherine Hancock Marsh
    Honored by many as a world class sea captain, Captain Edward John Smith took the helm as the captain of the maiden and last voyage of the famous RMS Titanic. While sailing across the Atlantic from England to its port of destination in New York City, the RMS Titanic took a crippling blow from an iceberg at 11:40pm on April 14, 1912. After 2 hours and 40 minutes passed, the mammoth ship sank, killing approximately 1500 people including Captain Smith.
    Dwayne Douglas Johnson (aka The Rock)
    Birth : May 2, 1972 in Haywood, California
    Parents : "The Soulman" Rocky Johnson and Ata Mania
    Using his muscular frame to tackle the entertainment industry, Dwayne earned a collegiate National Football Championship with the Miami Hurricanes. After a failed attempt at a professional football player in Canada, Dwayne entered the family business as a professional wrestler like his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia, uncles, Wild Samoans (Afa and Sika Anoa'i) and cousins, such as Rikishi, Rosey, and Umaga. Dwayne earned fame as The Rock, a prime wresting character in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), then the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). On the big screen, he showed his acting chops as the lead in the 2001 feature film, The Scorpion King. In , Dwayne started the Dwayne Johnson Rock Foundation, founded to help terminally ill children.
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    Interesting Facts About the Johnson Surname
  • A DNA research project has determined that Johnsons are classified into two main Haplogroups : 70% are part of the Rib Celt and the remaining are Viking.

  • The nomadic heritage of the Johnson clan made them a great influence in settling the western United States. As an example of this, many states have Johnson County, such as Tennessee, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Nebraska to name a few.

  • In 1886, Robert Wood Johnson gathered his brothers James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson to form the first American medical supply company to provide sterile ready to use surgical tools.

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