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StephenT [userpic]

Hey, I'm almost unique!

20th May 2010 (16:27)
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This site might be of interest to anyone who's either British or has British ancestry. It can tell you how many other people share your surname - and more interestingly, whereabouts in the country they come from. The site also has data from both 1998 and 1881, so you can see how the distribution has changed over the intervening century.

In my case, there are only 1,436 people in the whole country sharing the same name as me. No, I don't know all of them - but given how tightly clustered the distribution is, I do think there's a fair chance that we're all related.  Descriptive surnames like 'Smith' or 'Green' might be arrived at independently by different families all over the country, but such a concentraton suggests a single point of origin to me.

The map on the left (or the top if you don't have a widescreen monitor) is the distribution today, on the right/below 130 years ago. The small yellow dots mark where I was born and where I live now. ;-)

My surname in 1998  and in 1881.

So where does your surname come from?

ETA: Having investigated a little further, the data on 'Frequency' comes from the electoral register. I assume that means the figure is the number of adults with that surname, and ignores people under 18 (and also criminals, lunatics and the Queen). Also, the data on 'ethnicity' simply means the ethnicity of the person's first name.


Posted by: Lori (digopheliadug)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 16:09 (UTC)

My surname is German and my mom's maiden name is Irish, but my maternal grandmother's maiden name (phew!) is British. Can you tell how much I wanted to try out this thing? Anyway, apparently we're from Peterborough.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 16:31 (UTC)

My mother's surname is almost as geographically restricted as my father's. I don't think I have much genetic diversity. :-(

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 16:26 (UTC)

Norse origin, with some variants in medieval Ireland and the Scottish lowlands.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 16:32 (UTC)

Well, the Vikings colonised Ireland, and the Irish colonised Scotland, so it all works out...

Posted by: gillo (gillo)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 17:14 (UTC)
What have you done with your mother?

Ours is a very, very unusual name - in the 1881 census there are only three counties with enough people to register - Hampshire, Surrey and the Kingston-on-Thames end of Middlesex. They are a bit more widely-spread now, though not enough of us in the CV postcode area to show up. (I know of one non-related bearer of our name, who is an announcer on the local radio station. Assuming she's single, that would make five of us in 1998!)

Edited at 2010-05-20 17:15 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 18:24 (UTC)

There's one person in the local phonebook with the same name as me; I've never met them and don't know if they're related at all.

I suppose that back in the 14th century when surnames were invented, there were only about 1.5 million people in the whole country. Given that there are 270,000 surnmaes currently in use, it does actually suggest that everyone with the same name probably is descended from one family each...

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 17:40 (UTC)

Strangely enough, I have an English surname. My great grandfather had a very common last name, and so he changed it for one he thought would be truly unique... English being an exotic foreign language back in the late 1800s.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 18:26 (UTC)

I thought that by the 1880s English had just replaced French kas the global lingua franca?

But since you're clearly secretly English, I eagerly await you changing your user name to real-ale_good_warm-and-flat. :-)

Posted by: Lexi (eilowyn)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 18:03 (UTC)

. . . my surname is English in origin? What about all that Irish Catholic pride we've always had? Have we been deluding ourselves with our feelings of superiority for actually being from Ireland on St. Patrick's Day?

(Truth is, I'm a sixth generation Californian, and my dad's family immigrated from Ireland to the US sometime before 1847 - when the great great someone made the overland to Cali in the party directly after the Donners, so I don't know how much this applies to me).

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 18:36 (UTC)

Many millions of Irish people emigrated to England during the 19th century as well - it was much closer than the US, after all. *g* About 10% of the British population are at least one-quarter Irish; 'Kelly' is the 50th most common surname and 'Murphy' is the 66th.

So if you have an Irish surname, it doesn't mean you're English; it just means some of your ancestors headed east instead of west...

Posted by: The Mezzanine (deird1)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 20:28 (UTC)

Heck, I've been saying my surname is from my dad's Welsh ancestors, and now I'm discovering it's mainly from Scotland and the northern half of England...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 21:42 (UTC)

Well, if you go back far enough (like, the 5th and 6th centuries AD) Scotland and north England were part of Wales...

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 19:16 (UTC)

Well funnily enough my surname had exactly the same distribution as yours, so I thought I'd try some names connected with our favourite fandom:

Hannigan: Irish, in Great Britain most common around Glasgow
Head: Southern England, especially Kent and East Sussex, and Bournemouth
Marsters: Peterborough and the Fens. Most common occupation, Tourist attendants
Day: Essex and Hertfordshire

Whedon, Gellar, Brendon, Boreanez, Trachtenberg: not enough results to register

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 21:39 (UTC)

I'm surprised 'Brendon' didn't get into the list?

On a similar note:

Summers: 11,731 people with this name. 98% English.
It's pretty widespread, with most people being from the West Country, all the way from Cornwall up to the West Midlands with the highest number in the Severn Valley, but with other clusters in Kent, Sussex, Northumberland and eastern Scotland.

Harris: 103,962 people (22nd most common surname in Britain). 98% English.
Another West Country name, most common in south Wales and across to the West Midlands, with more in Devon/Cornwall. No Harrises in the Hebrides, oddly enough.

Rosenberg: 734 people. 90% of people with this surname have English first names, 5% have Jewish first names.
Most Rosenbergs live in North London, with a few in Manchester and Glasgow.

Giles: 14,371 people, 99% English.
Spread across southern England, basically in the old kingdom of Wessex with a concentration in the upper Thames Valley.

Lehane: 555 people, 91% English, 8% Irish.
Most Lehanes live in West London, with a surprisingly large cluster in the Scottish Highlands.

Edited at 2010-05-20 21:40 (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 21:49 (UTC)

London is full of people who weren't born there, it's true...

The Bath part is interesting since that's my grandmother's family name and they were from Bath.

Maybe they own the town, and named it after themselves. :-)

Posted by: alexeia_drae (alexeia_drae)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 20:56 (UTC)

My surname is British (one of those -son names) though my ancestors with the name immigrated from Ireland. I'm willing to bet though that they were originally British who settled in Ireland.

Mother's Maiden Name: Naugle which is German
Mat Grandmother: Dailey, Irish
Pat Grandmother: McIroy, also Irish

This is a neat resource, thanks for sharing!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th May 2010 21:53 (UTC)

You know, I'd have expected British settlers in Ireland to have either Scots names, or Norman French ones, not English...

(Unless you go far enough back to say that everybody in Ireland must have got there from Britain originally, apart from the ones who sailed there from Spain!)

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 21st May 2010 01:09 (UTC)

Not surprisingly, neither my name nor my mother's maiden name came up (both Italian). My grandmother's maiden name - Lynch - seems to be primarily from Scotland, which is interesting, since that's one of the few nationalities we aren't, lol.

Posted by: rapunzel215 (rapunzel215)
Posted at: 21st May 2010 03:05 (UTC)

Boo. There wasn't much info on my maiden name. And I thought it was so veddy British.

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