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Oliver Family History
This is a patronymic surname which derives from the given name of an ancestor and therefore means 'son of Oliver'. The personal name may originally have stemmed from the Old French name 'Olivier' and was introduced to Britain by the Norman French after 1066. Other theories suggest a Germanic origin and that it comes from the personal name Oliveira, or indicate it may instead derive from the Old Scandinavian Óláf or Continental Germanic Alfihar.
It was a popular name throughout Europe in the Middle Ages as is was borne by one of Charlemagne’s paladins, the faithful friend of Roland, whose exploits were the basis of many popular romances.
In Scottish history, Strathclyde-Britons first used it as a surname, and it was a name for someone who lived in Roxburgh.
Early bearers of the surname include: Jordan Oliver, Oliuier, of Somerset who appears on the 1201 Assize Rolls; Robert Olyveyr who appears on the 1260 Cambridgeshire Assize Rolls; and Ralph Olifer (1327 Worcestershire Subsidy Rolls).
In 1881, it was widespread especially in the north of England and southern Scotland. However, it was also relatively numerous in Cornwall on that year's census with 879 occurrences.
In 1891, the surname was recorded in England and Wales with 19,985 occurrences and a further 1,590 in Scotland.
Historically, it has not been a particularly widespread surname in Wales, but significant clusters of the surname appear on the records of the county of Montgomeryshire. It was a popular personal name in that county during the 16th and 17th centuries, and it later developed into a hereditary surname there between the 16th and 19th centuries.
- James Trevor 'Jamie' Oliver MBE is famous for his culinary skills as a television chef and restaurateur. He is also well known for his global campaign for better food education.
- Michael Oliver (1945 - 2019), a British architectural historian, sociologist and disability rights activist. He was a key advocate of the social model of disability and the first Professor of Disability Studies in the world.
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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