The surname of OLSEN was of Danish and Norwegian origin. It was a baptismal name 'the son of Ole or Olaf'. It was originally derived from the Old Norman personal name OLEIFR, and was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066. The name was a common Scandinavian one, and became popular also in North Scotland and Ireland, both of which received Scandinavian colonists at an early date. The name continued to be popular in the Middle Ages, in part as a result of the fame of Saint Olaf, King of Norway, who brought Christianity to his country in about 1015. The name has many variant spellings which include Oliffe, Olav, Olofsen, Olofsson and Olavsonn.
Notable members of the name include Olav V, born in 1903. He was the son of Haakon V11 and Maud, the daughter of Edward V11. He was educated in Norway and Balliol College, Oxford. He stayed in Norway when it was invaded by the Germans in 1940, and was appointed head of the Norwegian armed forces. Later he escaped with his father to England, returning in 1945 to Norway. Harry Ferdinand Olson (1901-82) was the American radio engineer and inventor born in Iowa. He developed the first electronic music synthesizer, and was awarded the Pullitzer prize for music in 1971. The associated arms are recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. Registered in Denmark. The practice of adopting surname spread to Denmark and Norway from Germany, during the late Middle Ages, but until the 19th century, they were neither fixed nor universal. The Danish state has in recent years been encouraging the adoption of a wider range of surnames. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.
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