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Anderson: Family Name, Meaning, History, and More

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Anderson: Family Name, Meaning, History, and More

Are you curious about the family name Anderson? This family name or surname is common throughout the English-speaking world, typically ranking as one of the top twenty last names in America each year. Anderson is also common in Scotland, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. We will examine the history and origins of this family name. Additionally, we will explore the name's meaning and its many variants throughout the world. Finally, we will note some of the best-known Andersons in history.

Origins of the Anderson Family Name

Anderson is a patronymic name, meaning it is a name that comes from the father or paternal ancestor. In the case of Anderson, the name originally meant “son of Andrew,” which came from the Greek name Andreas, meaning “man or manly.” The name first appeared in Scotland in the 13th century and was originally spelled “Andrewson.” It officially became a Scottish clan name in the 16th century. As a result, there are fourteen recognized tartans for Scottish descendants named Anderson.

During the Middle Ages, spelling rules had not been established yet, so the name was spelled in a variety of ways, resulting in a number of offshoots. Here are some of the most common spellings of this name during the medieval period in Scotland.

  • MacAndrew
  • Androsoun
  • Andison
  • Andersone
  • Andirsoone
  • Andrson

The name Anderson was first recorded in the Domesday Book in Britain in the year 1086. Once the name traveled to Scandinavian countries, it commonly became spelled Andersson. Andersson is now the most common surname in Sweden. It is also one of the top ten most common family names in Denmark and Norway.

Red house in Sweden at the skerry coast with flag
Andersson is the most common family name in Sweden.


Researching the Anderson Family Name

The popular genealogy website Ancestry has over twenty million records for the Anderson family name. These include birth and death records, census reports, and immigration records. Census records are especially helpful in family research because the census taker records the names of everyone in the household, their ages and birthplaces, addresses, and occupations. Some census records even reveal when the person immigrated to the United States.

Unfortunately, much of the essential information at Ancestry is behind a paywall. However, there are many other websites to consider, including some that focus exclusively on the Anderson family name. One great free resource is Family Search. Websites like the Anderson Family Genealogy Forum may also prove useful.

Be sure to consider some good old-fashioned research at the library. Many public and academic libraries have extensive genealogy collections. Not all of these collections have been digitized. Also, consider local historical societies and church records, where you can often find clues about family history. And, of course, connect with other family members who have already done family tree research.

General Genealogy Research Tips

Here are a few tips for successful genealogy research.

  • Start with what you know. The best research has a solid foundation.
  • Consider your goals and make a plan. Write down the questions you are trying to answer.
  • Evaluate your sources carefully. If possible, original records will be the most helpful.
  • Create a filing system to organize your research. It is a good idea to make back up copies of important documents.
  • Once you begin making headway, share your research. Not only will you connect with other family researchers, but you may help other researchers out, too.
  • Embrace new tools as they come along. Genealogy research is expanding and growing every year as more people digitize their discoveries and share them online.
  • Have fun! You may get frustrated when you hit a wall, but try to enjoy the journey of exploring your family's legacy.
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Sharing information online will connect you to other family researchers.

©maxim ibragimov/Shutterstock.com

Fun Facts About the Anderson Family Name

Now that we understand the meaning and origin of this name, here are some other things you might not know about the name Anderson.

  • Approximately 1,386,213 people in the world share the last name Anderson.
  • One out of every 140 Scots have the last name Anderson.
  • Anderson is the fifth most common last name in Denmark and Sweden.
  • The Anderson family has many family mottos, including “Fortiter et recti (boldly and rightly)” and “Nil conscire sibi (To feel no guilt).”
  • St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, which may explain why the name took hold in the country.
  • In the United States, individuals with the last name Anderson are more likely to be registered as Republicans compared to the national average. According to Forebears, 57.95% of American Andersons are registered as Republicans.
  • In the United States in 2004, the life expectancy for those with this last name was seventy-four years old.
  • According to the 2010 census, 75.17% of individuals with the last name Anderson in America self-identified as White.
  • In the 1940 United States census, the top two jobs for people named Anderson were farmer and maid.
  • California, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Georgia, and Florida are the six states where the name is most commonly found in the United States.
  • Andreychenko is the Ukrainian cognate of Anderson.
  • Anderson is the name of towns in the United Kingdom, Argentina, and the United States, as well as rivers in Canada and the US, and islands in Canada and Australia.

Famous People With the Anderson Family Name

No longer a name that merely denotes “son of Andrew,” people named Anderson have succeeded in a variety of fields. Here are a few names you might recognize.

  • Sean Michael Leonard Anderson – If you don't recognize this name, you might know him as “Big Sean.” Anderson is a Grammy-nominated American rapper who has been recognized for “Best Rap Song” and “Album of the Year.”
  • Gillian Anderson – Famous for her portrayal of FBI Special Agent Dana Scully on the television series The X-Files, Anderson has won two Emmys, two Golden Globes and four SAGs (Screen Actors Guild Awards).
  • Laurie Halse Anderson – American writer best known for her young adult novel Speak. Anderson has sold nearly eight million books worldwide.
  • Louie Anderson – An Emmy-winning standup comedian and game show host who also played himself in the animated TV series Life With Louie.
  • Melissa Sue Anderson – An American-Canadian actress who appeared as Mary Ingalls in the popular TV series Little House on the Prairie.
  • Michael J. Anderson – An American actor best known for his appearances in David Lynch's Twin Peaks series and the HBO series Carnivàle.
  • Pamela Anderson – American-Canadian model and actress who became famous after portraying lifeguard C.J. Parker on the television series Baywatch.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson – American writer, director, and producer of the films Boogie Nights, Licorice Pizza, and There Will Be Blood.
  • Sunny Anderson – Television personality who hosts the Food Network shows How'd That Get On My Plate? and Cooking for Real.
  • Wes Anderson – Critically acclaimed filmmaker known for his distinctive style, eccentric characters, and ensemble casts. He has directed several successful movies, including The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
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Start your genealogy research with what you know about your family history.


Final Thoughts

Dating back to the Middle Ages, Anderson is a family name with strong Scottish, Swedish, and Norwegian roots. Like all family names originating in the medieval period, there were many spelling variations and cognate offshoots. People in English-speaking countries often spell the name as Anderson, while people in Scandinavian countries commonly spell it as Andersson.

Anderson family researchers will find a wealth of online information about this last name. Ancestry alone has over twenty million family records dating back centuries. However, there are plenty of free genealogy websites to consider, as well as websites specifically catered to Anderson family researchers. Doing real-life digging in libraries or historical societies is also a great way to uncover family history. However you choose to research, there is plenty left to discover about the Anderson family name.

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