Just how popular is your surname?

Sept. 15, 2010 at 4:15 a.m.

By Martha Jones

Every 10 years since 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has taken an enumeration of people living in the United States. The enumerators once asked a variety of questions, such as does your family own a radio, how many bathrooms are in the house and whether or not the family owns a computer. The U.S. Census Bureau even counts how many people have the same first or last names.

The 20 most common surnames in America in the 1990 census were:

1. Smith

2. Johnson

3. Williams

4. Jones

5. Brown

6. Davis

7. Miller

8. Wilson

9. Moore

10. Taylor

11. Anderson

12. Thomas

13. Jackson

14. White

15. Harris

16. Martin

17. Thompson

18. Garcia

19. Martinez

20. Robinson

Do you wonder the popularity of your family name? You can check it online at: www.pbs.org/pov/thesweetestsound/popularityindex.php.

As you can see in the list above, Jones, my married name, ranks fourth in popularity; however, my maiden name of Everman ranks No. 15,519. In 1995, the Census Bureau published a list of surnames occurring 100 times or more from the 1990 decennial census. The 1990 list contains 88,799 names. When the Bureau published the list following the 2000 census, it contained 151,671 names. Since the latest U.S. Census enumeration took place earlier this year, a new list of the most popular surnames and given names likely will be published within the next five years.

Do you wonder what the last name on the popularity list might be? Well, it is Aalderink. Researching the name Jones is no easy task, since it is the fourth most popular, but I wonder what it would be like researching the Aalderink family rated on the Census Department's list as the 88,799th most popular surname in the country.

I doubt you will find many people named Aalderink in various records, but if you do, that person probably is related to all the rest of them. I am sure there are some other names that are so rare as to not even make the list at all.

What about you? According to the 2000 data, although the entire list of 151,671 surnames covers about 90 percent of the population, it accounts for only about three percent of surnames in the United States. The 2000 census found more than 6 million surnames total, and the vast majority (about 65 percent) are held by just one surname. Therefore, do not be discouraged if yours is not included in the 97 percent of all surnames in the United States that did not make the list.


The George Morgan Genealogy Seminar is Saturday, Oct. 9, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Victoria College Student Center, 2200 E. Red River St. Early registration is $40, including a box lunch, until Sept. 25. After Sept. 25, the price increases to $50. Seating is limited, so register early. Make checks payable to VCGS, P.O. Box 413, Victoria, TX 77902-0413. Sign-in begins at 8:30 a.m. Contact Karen Mueller at 361-578-9500 or e-mail her at karengm@suddenlink.net.

Happy researching.

E-mail genealogy queries to mjones@vicad.com. VCGS members will research queries requiring extensive study.



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia