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Sample History: Johnson


The name Johnson was brought to England in the great wave of migration following the Norman Conquest of 1066. It comes from the given name John and the name literally means "son of John." The given name John is derived from the Hebrew name Johanan, which means "Jehovah has favored." The name was extremely popular in the Middle Ages as a result of the numerous connections between the name John and the Christian Church. Early records of the name Johnson in the chronicles of England show that the ancestors of the bearers of this name were of the Norman race. The name appears in England from about 1066 A.D., and its history is interwoven within the majestic tapestry which contains the history of Britain.

Professional researchers used such ancient manuscripts as the Domesday Book (compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror), the Ragman Rolls, the Wace poem, the Honour Roll of the Battel Abbey, The Curia Regis, Pipe Rolls, the Falaise Roll, tax records, baptismals, family genealogies, and local parish and church records to establish that the first record of the name Johnson was found in Lincolnshire where they had been granted lands by Duke William on his conquest of England in 1066.

The name, Johnson, occurred in many references, but from time to time, spellings included Johnson, Joneson,and many others. Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded. It was not unlikely that a person would be born with one spelling, married with another, and buried with a headstone which showed another spelling.

The Normans were commonly believed to be of French origin but, more accurately, they were of Viking origin. The Vikings, under their Jarl, Thorfinn Rollo, invaded France in about 911 A.D. After Rollo laid siege to Paris, the French King, Charles the Simple, finally conceded defeat, granting northern France to Rollo. Duke William who invaded and defeated England in 1066, was descended from the first Duke Rollo of Normandy.

The surname Johnson emerged as a notable family name in the county of Lincoln. Many of the ancient and leading houses of the Johnson family name claim descendancy originally from the house of FitzJohn in Normandy, particularly that of one of the leading branches and oldest, that of the Johnsons of Ayscough-Fee in the county of Lincolnshire. They branched north to Scotland at the beginning of the 13th century. By 1296 Wautier Johnson of Berwickshire rendered homage to King Edward 1st of England, on his brief conquest of Scotland. Adam Johnson was a Scottish prisoner of War captured by the English, was discharged from Newgate Prison in 1375. Sir Nicholas Johnson was Burgess of Ayr in 1503. To the south the branches of Johnson proliferated particularly in the English counties of Durham, Northumberland, Bedfordshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, and London. Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir Nicholas Johnson.

The surname Johnson contributed much to local politics and in the affairs of England or Scotland. During the 12th century many of these Norman families moved north to Scotland. Later, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries England was ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament fought for supremacy. The unrest caused many to think of distant lands.

In Ireland, settlers became known as the "Adventurers for land in Ireland." They "undertook" to keep the Protestant faith, occupying the lands of the Irish. In Ireland this distinguished family settled in Ulster in the 17th century.

The democratic way of life of the New World beckoned many. They sailed aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as the "White Sails."

In North America, settlers bearing your surname or a spelling variation of the name include: Widow Johnson who settled in Virginia in 1623; followed by Alice in 1635, Abraham in 1648; Albert Johnson settled in Maryland in 1682; Benjamin Johnson settled in the Barbados in 1660; Bridget Johnson settled in Quebec in 1825; Charles Johnson settled in Providence R.I. in 1823. The family also settled in Pennsylvania, California, New York, and Massachusetts in the 19th century. In Newfoundland, Thomas Johnson settled in St. John's in 1666, Thomas Johnson came to Quidi Vidi in 1680, and James Johson was in Lower Island Cove in 1768. Many bearing this name were registered as United Empire Loyalists, including George, Sir John, James and Laurence Johnson. From the port of arrival settlers joined the wagon trains westward. During the American War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the Crown and moved northward into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

In recent history, prominent bearers of the Johnson surname have included: Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), English lexicographer, writer, critic, and conversationalist, best known for his "Dictionary of the English Language" in 1755, Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), American, 17th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) (1908-1973), US Democratic statesman and 36th President of the USA from 1963-69, Caryn Johnson (b. 1950) American, original name of actress Whoopi Goldberg, American jazz musician, James Price Johnson (1894-1955) American jazz pianist, Amy Johnson (1903-1941), English pioneering long-distance aviator, Lucy Johnson (1922-1990) American, original name of actress Ava Gardner, Michael Johnson (b. 1967) American, gold medal winning sprinter, Robert Johnson (1911-1938), American, influential blues singer and guitarist, Earvin (Magic) Johnson (1959-), famed American basketball player, Alexander Bryan Johnson (1786-1867) Eng/Am philosopher, Dame Celia Johnson (1908-1982) English actress, John "Jack" Arthur Johnson (1878-1946), American pugilist, Lionel Pigot Johnson (1867-1902) English poet, Pamela Hansford Johnson (1912-1981) English novelist, Philip Cortelyou Johnson (b. 1906) American architect, as well as Richard Mentor Johnson (1781-1850) American democratic politician, 9th Vice President of the United States.


This page was last modified on 14 February 2011 at 14:47.

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