I have just come across a really cool website that I want to tell you about.
It’s called “World Family Names,” at http://worldnames.publicprofiler.org and it shows the frequency of surnames in 26 countries around the world in relation to the overall population.
The countries are: US, UK, Canada, Japan, India, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The maps use data for approximately 300 million people in 26 countries of the world, representing a total population of 1 billion people in those countries. There are 8 million unique surnames in this database.
Plug in your own surname, or surnames of family members and/or friends, and you will see where people with this surname live around the world, in greater or lesser numbers. (I tried first with names of friends, including Ngom (a Senegalese name), Kaplansky, Lofstrom, Quint, Kovacs, and Zimman, and got interesting results).
I also tried my last name, Smith, one of the commonest last names in the English-speaking world.
Not surprisingly, the bluest of the blue areas shows that there are many “Smith”s as a percentage of the overall population in the UK and also in Australia, where many people of British ancestry–including members of my own family–live. The US and Canada weighs in after that, not surprising when you figure that both these countries were originally colonized by the British (along with, of course, the Native Americans, who were there first, and the Spaniards and the French.)
Then I checked to see where in the UK the greatest concentration of Smiths are:
Gratifyingly, the greatest number of “Smith”s are right where I’d expect them to be, in the Midlands, which encompasses Derbyshire, my parents’ home county, and which would include members of my immediate family, a number who are farmers and so are not at all mobile and at least two generations ago tended to have very large families to help with all the work on the farm.
But now take a look at my mother’s family, surname Wallis:
I know that there are relatively few Wallises in the world, save for a long-ago Wallis who was a famous mathematician, another who circumnavigated the globe, and one American charismatic Christian called Jim all of whom, as far as I know, are no relation to us.
I wanted to see where the Wallises lived in the UK, and if there was a clumping in Derbyshire, where my mother was born, but I found that there are relatively few Wallises in Derbyshire; most of them are grouped on the east and south coasts of England.
The fact that there’s a clumping in the south and east of England makes sense, if you know that those Wallises (those who were not originally “Wallace”s which is a completely different name) are most likely to have been French people of the name “De Walys” who came over to England in the Norman Conquest in 1066, and who probably remained in the part of England closest to France.
Now, plug in your family surname(s), and see where it takes you!