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New Online Tool for Mapping Surname Distribution
Published: 04 September 2008
By: Rick Roberts,   Biography & Archived Articles


Curious about how far and wide spread that persons with the same name have migrated?

Now there is an easy way to find out. A new online resource called Public Profiler uses a database comprised of information gleaned from electoral roles and telephone directories to map out the distribution of more than eight million different surnames, and 5 million different given names (forenames). The database includes more than 300 million people living in 26 countries. It shows the origins of names and indicates where those families have moved to.

David Beckham, a world famous British football player, has an English name. However, today there are more Beckhams living in the United States than in Britain. Surprisingly, the region of the world with the highest concentration of people called Beckham is even further from the footballer's east London origins - in the New Zealand province of Northland.

The Public Profiler website also reveals which of the five million forenames are most closely associated with different surnames and lists the top regions and cities for each surname.

The online tool was developed by a team of geographers from University College London. Professor Paul Longley, one of the researchers, said: "The information is not just historical but geographical... We can link names to places - a name is now not just a statement of who you are but where you are."

Most surnames originated in specific places in the world and remain most frequent in those areas, but have often spread to other countries because of migration, the research showed.

Searches for Canada's leaders of the five main federal political parties revealed some mixed results: (organized alphabetically)
  • Stéphane Dion's surname is most prevalent, as a percentage of population, in Canada, followed in order by France, United States and Belgium
  • Gilles Duceppe's surname is most prevalent, as a percentage of population, in Canada. No statistically relevant distribution outside of Canada.
  • Stephen Harper's surname is most prevalent, as a percentage of population, in Great Britain, followed in order by New Zealand, Australia, United States and then Canada
  • Jack Layton's surname is most prevalent, as a percentage of population, in Australia, followed in order by United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and then Canada.
  • Elizabeth May's surname is most prevalent, as a percentage of population, in Australia, followed in order by Great Britain, New Zealand, United States and then Canada.
On a personal note, I searched for one of my mother's families: DEVLIN. The branch of the family that my mother is descended from emigrated from Ireland to Canada in 1819 settling in Lanark County, Ontario. A search on Public Profiler reveals the following regarding the surname:
    Surname: DEVLIN
    • Group: Celtic
    • Subgroup: Irish



    Top Countries (listed by country with Frequency Per Million,FPM)
    • IRELAND 557.47
    • GREAT BRITAIN 234.08
    • AUSTRALIA 185.1
    • NEW ZEALAND 112.66
    • CANADA 94.44
    Top Regions (listed by Region with Frequency Per Million,FPM)
    • WESTERN AUSTRALIA , AUSTRALIA 251.52
    • VICTORIA , AUSTRALIA 218.99
    • MASSACHUSETTS , UNITED STATES 207.23
    • TASMANIA , AUSTRALIA 196.3
    • AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY , AUSTRALIA 182.65
    Top Cities
    • ASHINGTON , NORTH , UNITED KINGDOM
    • AMSTERDAM , NOORD-HOLLAND , NETHERLANDS
    • ARLESEY , SOUTH EAST , UNITED KINGDOM
    • ANAHEIM , CALIFORNIA , UNITED STATES
    • ALTON , SOUTH EAST , UNITED KINGDOM
    Top Forenames
    • JEAN
    • MATTHEW
    • CHRISTINE
    • ROBT
    • KENNETH
When the site was first launched, user traffic was so strong that the site kept crashing. Now that initial surge is over, the site appears to be working nicely.

You can check out the surnames that interest you at Public Profiler -- and best of all. it's free.

Rick Roberts, GlobalGenealogy.com Inc.


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