Samuelson


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Samuelson is patronymic (son of Samuel) and derived from the Hebrew name Shmuel, meaning “name of God.”  Samuel was the last of the ruling judges in the Old Testament.  He anointed both Saul and David as kings of Israel.

The Samuelson name found its way into the English-speaking world via two routes:
  • from Scandinavian arrivals.  The spelling was Samuelsson in Sweden and Samuelsen in Denmark and Norway.
  • and from Jewish arrivals. Here Samuelson would have been the equivalent of Ben Shmuel and later Samuelsohn.

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Scotland.   The Shetland islands to the north of Scotland had remained under Viking control until 1472 when they were finally annexed by the Scottish Crown.  Norse heritage and names remained there.  The Norse name of Samuelson was to be found in the Shetlands in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in the northernmost island of Unst.  

England
.  The Samuelsons in England were few in number (less than 90 in the 1881 census) and were Jewish in origin.  There were two notable lines here, one from affluent German Jews and the other from Polish immigrants. 

The first Samuelsons were originally Samuels from Hamburg.  Hyman Samuel, born in London, became prosperous as a silversmith and watchmaker in Baltimore.  He died in Jamaica in 1813.  His son Samuel Samuelson, brought to Hull at an early age, was the forebear of the English Samuelsons: 
  • his son Sir Bernhard Samuelson made his name as an industrialist in Banbury, Oxfordshire. He served as its MP from 1858 to 1895 and was made a baronet.  
  • while two of Bernhard’s sons, Henry and Godfrey, were also Liberal MP’s.  
Elias Samuelson had changed his name from Metzenberg to Samuelson in 1846 soon after his arrival in Dublin from Leszno in Poland.  He became a successful tailor in Dublin and moved to London and a shop off Saville Row in 1871.  

His brother Henschel, who also changed his name, made his home in Southport, Lancashire as a tobacconist.  He died soon after the birth of his son G.B. Samuelson (known as Bertie) in 1889.  Despite this unpromising beginning, Bertie emerged as one of the pioneers of British cinema in the silent film era:
  • one of his sons Sidney was appointed the first British Film Commissioner in 1991; while another son David won an Oscar for his contributions to camera and lighting.  
  • and Sidney’s son Peter has been a successful film producer in both the UK and US.
America.  Samuelsons here have been a mix of Scandinavian and Jewish origin. 

Scandinavian
.  These immigrants came in the mid/late 1800’s, generally to states in the upper Midwest.  Among the arrivals were: 
  • Svend Samuelson who came from Norway in 1854 and farmed in Wisconsin.  
  • Swan Peter Samuelson who came from Sweden in the late 1860’s and farmed in Henry county, Illinois.  His grandson Don Samuelson, born at his farmstead at Woodhull, became Governor of Idaho in 1967.
  • Alexander Samuelson, a glass engineer, who emigrated from Sweden to Indiana in 1883.  There he designed the Coca-Cola contour bottle which was introduced in 1916 and became world-famous.
  • Anders Samuelson and two of his siblings who came from Norway to Milwaukee around the year 1890.  Anders later departed to homestead in North Dakota.
  • and Charles Samuelson who left Sweden for Wabash county, Minnesota in the early 1900's.  His son Ralph is credited with having invented the sport of water-skiing.
Jewish.  The Samuelson Jewish incomers were less focused on the Midwest:
  • Max Samuelson, for instance, came to Vermont from Poland in the early 1880’s.  Starting from nothing, he helped develop the Jewish community in Burlington.
  • while Yehuda Ben Schmuel arrived in New York from Russia in the early 1900’s and became Julius Samuelson in America after leaving Ellis Island.  He and his family settled in Chicago and his descendants in Louisiana and Texas.  They have held Samuelson family reunions since 1985.
Frank and Ella Samuelson were Jewish immigrants from Poland who had come to Gary, Indiana in 1908.  Their son Paul Samuelson, born there in 1915, became the famous economist.  He spent his career at MIT where he was instrumental in turning its Department of Economics into a world-renowned institution.

Samuelson's family included many well-known economists, including brother Robert Summers, sister-in-law Anita Summers, brother-in-law Kenneth Arrow and nephew Larry Summers.  Curiously his brothers Robert and Harold had both elected when young to change their names from Samuelson to Summers.

Canada.
  Lesser Samuelsohn had immigrated to Rochester, New York from Poland in the early 1900’s.  He was a master tailor who in 1923 moved to Montreal where he established an international reputation.  His tailoring business was handed down to his grandsons Michael and Richard.  

South Africa
.  Ben Schmuelson left Lithuania for South Africa in the early 1900’s.  He settled in Johannesburg.  A neighbor asked him in 1925: 

“You are so poor and yet you have six children.  Would it not be easier for you if you had had one less?”  He smiled and replied: “And which one should I not have had?"

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Ralph Samuelson is considered the father of water-skiing, having developed the first prototype skis in 1922.
Paul Samuelson
, awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1970, has been called the father of modern economics.
Sir Sidney Samuelson
was appointed the first British Film Commissioner in 1991.

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  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in UK)




PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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