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The Normans, as a race, originated in the Scandinavian peninsula, composed of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. At first these bold and adventurous sea rovers were known as Northman or Norsemen. Between the eighth and ninth centuries they invaded Europe and even came to North American before the time of Columbus, it is said.

Norman, a softened form of the name, was applied to those who settled in France. Normandy, which got its name from the Normans, was the French province which they founded. Here they adopted the French civilization, language and religion, and became the most cultured people of Europe.

In 1066, Duke William of Normandy led the army into England and defeated the English king at the famous Battle of Hastings. England was under Norman rule for 88 years afterwards. William, The Conqueror, used harsh measures and ruled with an iron hand, but with his ability and determination he was able to unite England and gain the respect of his people.

The Normans, wherever they went, adopted the ways and customs of the people they conquered. They used what they learned to improve things. This was shown in their development of French literature, and their contribution to art in the Roman style of architecture, and the way they changed from seafaring to landsmen and by many other ways. They were strong, intelligent and enterprising, and highly gifted. The Normans were said to have been born soldiers and were strict observers of form or rules in all matters.

The family name of Norman is derived from the early Normans. Norman appeared as a personal name in England in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Among the early records of the names are Matthew Ie Norman (Hundred Rolls), Robert Northman (Hundred Rolls), and Norman de Arcy (Hundred Rolls) and others. In many counties of England, the name appeared as time went on.

While it is not known from which of the numerous lines of the family in England the first emigrants of the name to America traced their descent, it appears from old records that the Normans were among the earliest settlers in the New Word. There were Normans in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Maryland in the early and late 1600's. They had similar given names: Richard, John, Joseph, Thomas, William and George.

Source: The World Book Encyclopedia
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