Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tracing surname distributions

Here's something quite amusing for all of you with a genealogical bent: a UCL site that profiles the distribution of your surname in 1881 and 1998.

My surname is relatively rare and does, indeed, originate amongst the Quakers of northern England (hence we are closely related to various famous Quaker families, such as Rowntree, Cadbury's, etc.); indeed, there are relations of ours who are still Quakers in Durham. My (relatively) recent ancestors made a reasonable amount of money in steel, coal and railways, I believe. Good working-class interests there...

Although it doesn't show, there were, in fact, people with our surname in Scotland at that time, one of whom emigrated and became one of Catherine The Great's most favoured physicians (we have a pamphlet, from the time of his return, outlining his biography). Upon her death, he returned to Scotland. And brought Medicinal Rhubarb with him.

We also know that sometime in the late 1800s, we married into the Trail family of Orkney, so that distribution makes sense too.

My great-grandfather moved south, I believe and he moved to the West Country; my grandfather lived, for very many years, in Wotton-Under-Edge (great fossil hunting on the hills, by the way) and, indeed, my aunt currently resides near Malmesbury (not a million miles from The Englishman).

Apparently, I wasn't in the Lothians in 1998 (I was. Pah!) but then I am the only one with my surname in the Edinburgh 'phone book, so I probably don't show up on this scale.

You can also check world locations (Geographical Location) and how common that name is (Frequency and Ethnicity). For instance, the surname "Smith" occurs 15,620 times per million in 1881 and 13,822 per million in 1998; my surname occurs only 32 times per million in 1881 and 30 times per million in 1998.

In the Social Demographics (Geographical Location), only 3% of people have a more rural name but 41% have a more high-status name.

Still, all quite interesting, don't you think?


Bag said...

Sounds like you and the Smiths need to start reproducing. If Smiths are down and you are down then the only thing that can be up is these uppitty foreigners. Like me! My surname is up 140%. Being a pervert has it's advantages. Although, thinking out it as I type, that must mean my whole family are perverts. Yippee! I can blame it on genetics.

Mr Eugenides said...

I had no idea there were so many "Devil"s in the country...

Robert said...

Male ancestors, of course, which represents a proportion of your total ancestry that becomes exponentially smaller, as your trace back further through the generations.

Your maternal ancestors might have brought other medicinal herbs into Britian, or made other types of chocolate, but you might never know.

David Farrer said...

My God (so to speak). We are related. (Scroll down if necessary)

Draxar said...

Alas, I don't appear. The downside of having a surname that I've only ever encountered in people related to me, and there's only 9 of us, whereas it needs 100 on electoral register.

It's because we've got an unusual variation on a common surname and/or my grandfather changed his name to cover up the fact he'd eloped to France with another officer's wife.