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Family spelling variants includes Jonson, Joynson, Jonsson, Johanson, Johns, Jones

JOHNSON Family History

Family spelling variants include Jonson, Joynson, Jonsson, Johanson, and Johns.

This surname derives from the personal name John + the patronymic marker 'son', and so it literally means 'John's son'. This form is most commonly seen in England and Scotland. In Wales the variant 'Johns' (which often later developed into Jones) was, historically, more prevalent.

It is of Biblical origin, 'Johanan', meaning 'God is gracious', and was brought into Britain and Ireland by the Normans via the Norman-French name 'Jehan'. There are many other derivatives of this name in continental European languages. 

There are approximately 2,690,630 Johnson family members around the world. It is estimated that the largest group live in USA with 2,293,849 (85.3%) members, England with 191,412 (7.1%), Canada with 79,512 (3%), Australia with 59,120 (2.2%), South Africa with 45,130 (1.7%), Wales with 6,335 (0.2%), New Zealand with 6,149 (0.2%), Scotland with 5,122 (0.2%) and Ireland with 3,973 (0.1%).

In Irish, Mac Seáin, also formerly written Mac Seagháin, anglicised as MacShane, also as Johnson, by translation, 'son of John'. The Irish Seán is the Gaelicisation of the Norman name. 'Shane' is simply a phonetic rendering of Seán.

Early bearers of the surname include: John Jonessone, 1287 in Ancient Deeds i (Surrey); Wautier Jonessone, 1296 in Scotland Calendar (Berwicks); John Jonesone, 1321 in Ancient Deeds i (Surrey); William Johnson, Robert Johanson, Jonson, 1379 in Yorks Poll Tax; William Johnson, 1517 in IGI (Tipton, Staffs); Rychardus Johnson, 1535 in IGI (Brocklesby, Lincs); Alicia Johnson, 1538 in IGI (Croxton, Cambs); Annes Johnson, 1538 in IGI (Saint James Garlickhithe, London); Myles Johnson, 1539 in IGI (Aldborough, WR Yorks).

The surname was widespread in England in 1881, especially in the north and the Midlands. The highest number of references to the Johnson surname on the 1881 census was in Kent, with 3,338 entries followed by Nottinghamshire with 2,152 entries.

In 1881, the most common occupations for Johnson family members in the UK were agricultural labourer, farmer and coal miner. 

In 1891 Census, 110,490 individuals were recorded as having the Johnson surname in England and Wales, with a further 2,221 in Scotland. 

Notable people

  • Joseph Johnson, an English convict from London, was transported aboard the "Almorah" in April 1817, settling in New South Wales, Australia.
  • Amy Johnson CBE (born 1903) was a pioneering female pilot who came to prominence through her endeavour to set a record for a solo flight from London to Darwin, Australia. She vanished on 5 January 1941, over the Thames estuary. 
  • Dustin Hunter Johnson (born June 22, 1984) is an American professional golfer who plays on the PGA Tour. He first became the world number 1-ranked golfer in February 2017 and remained there for 64 consecutive weeks, the 5th longest run as number 1.
  • Professor Stacy Dianne Johnson M.B.E., British Associate Professor for University of Nottingham, was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire on 29th December 2018 for services to Healthcare, to Higher Education to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.



1881, 1891 Census

Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003

Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016

1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain

1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain



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    Máire NiEóin MhicRuairí

    Hi my Johnson family is from Ballydavid, County Kerry Ireland.  Many of our family members including my grandfather Thomas Johnson who is buried in Kilmakaeder Cemetery, used the surname, MacEóin.  My research has indicated that the MacEóin family name is a sub-name of the MacFarland clan in Scotland.   Pronounced like MacOwen.  There are generations of Johnsons and MacEóin(s) in Kerry.    Also there was a general in the Irish Volunteer Army, Seán MacEóin. We are not English.  

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    I recently took a genetic test done on my biological ancentry. Most of my ancestors are from Ireland/Scotland. My surname is Johnson. I really don't much about the family name other than being told that much of my family is upper european, German, Swedish, Irish , English and Scottish. I would really appreciate any help that I could get to trace family farther back than just my great grandfather.
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    Ricky Johnson

    I went to a code of arms store. Gave them my name and the girl looked it up and said it is from Ireland and from 300BC.She said it was one of the oldest names. The code of arms was with the the 5 cocks . Anyone know if this is true?
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    Camellia Wateridge

    Wa t tribe is the Johnson family part of
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