"My name is John Johnson, I come from Wisconsin..."
September 10, 2001 11:55 AM   Subscribe

"My name is John Johnson, I come from Wisconsin..." Find out the historical distribution of your last name throughout the U.S. (This will not, alas, be useful for Mr. Johnson, or the Smiths, Joneses, Williamses, and Browns of the world.) Brits, we haven't forgotten you! Of course, if you're doing genealogical research, you can turn to specific resources, like the US Census or the massive Familysearch.
posted by snarkout (15 comments total)
Odd spike of Huffs in Idaho in 1880. Otherwise it seems we've populated the country pretty evenly, even Alaska.

It's amazing what geneologists do over the Internet. It's gotta be one of the top 5 web innovating industries.
posted by me3dia at 12:05 PM on September 10, 2001

As of 1990, "Soprano" is most likely in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Louisiana, possibly the 3 most corrupt states. Go figure. I also looked for "Donner" in California in 1850, but it wasn't very well represented.
posted by msacheson at 12:06 PM on September 10, 2001

That's pretty cool. I guessed pretty well where my name would be most common, but there were also some surprises.

Maybe they'll expand that site with 2000 data and data from earlier censuses so that you can see how distributions change over time.

I like having a last name that's not overly common, even though there are still plenty of them around. It means that if you run into another person with the same last name, you have something of a claim on their attention. That's probably not the case if your name is Jones, but if your name is the 1128th most common in the US, then someone who shares it at least has to pretend to try to figure out how you're related.
posted by anapestic at 12:07 PM on September 10, 2001

Oops. It does have different years. Back in 1850, the only places my ancestors lived were in the three states where they're still most common. I guess the Amish and Mennonites don't migrate a whole lot.
posted by anapestic at 12:10 PM on September 10, 2001

Odd spike of Huffs in Idaho in 1880.

Same with me, my last name appears blue in all states except Idaho in 1880, which is red. After that it spreads out evenly all around.
posted by Laugh_track at 12:35 PM on September 10, 2001

apparently my family never strayed too far from their original settlements in tennessee.

(note that i ran far far away as soon as i legally could.)
posted by patricking at 12:42 PM on September 10, 2001

My last name doesn't get any results. Am I dead?

I wonder what the ratio of people with last names not within the 50,000 most commonly occuring names to the number of people with those 50,000 most common names is. Umm, do you know what I mean through the bad English?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:14 PM on September 10, 2001

In the 1990 census, the only state for which my surname isn't completely blue is Idaho.

I don't know of any relatives in Idaho. At all.
posted by kindall at 2:13 PM on September 10, 2001

I'm outside of the 50,000 loop too. Hmph. I feel so uncommon now.
posted by Dreama at 2:26 PM on September 10, 2001

What's fascinating is how, in a review of my surname and my mother's maiden name over the years, the rate of occurence "evens-out" across the country over the years. This corresponds with a general expansion and suburbanization of the US population as a whole but it also may demonstrate how American families tend to not stay put.

Or it just could be a wacky coincidence/conclusion.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:25 PM on September 10, 2001

Just for kicks, I put in my given last name as well as my current one, and discovered that while there are measurable concentrations of relatives in the Northeast, the only known Saxmans in America apparently live in New Mexico...

posted by Mars Saxman at 4:21 PM on September 10, 2001

I too, am an endangered species; not found in the US Census' "Book of Life". ~Sigh~

I need Federal Protection, Dammit. And Breeding Stock!!! I have a whole genealogical line and a rare and unique MHC to strengthen the human race!

It can't end this way!!!! Alone, a failure of my genetic duties, face down, rotting in my Post-Toasties to be found only when I stink up the neighborhood....

D A M N Y O U , D A R W I N !!!!!!!
posted by Perigee at 10:52 PM on September 10, 2001

There's also a site that does this for Italian surnames. My last name turns out to be moderately common there, but some of the other names in my family tree appear in only two or three villages. Very interesting stuff.
posted by geneablogy at 11:22 PM on September 10, 2001

I want to know how and why there was cluster of Epsteins in Arkansas in 1850... It just doesn`t sound like a place Epsteins are likely to go. Especially not my family.
posted by chiheisen at 1:05 AM on September 11, 2001

If anyone wants (or has) information on the names McCourt, Reynolds, Bashford and Burnett, predominately in the UK and Ireland, I have a load I'm willing to share, dating back as far as 1850 on the McCourt side. Just drop me a line or check out the genealogy section of my website.
posted by emc at 1:40 AM on September 11, 2001

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