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Fun With Name Demographics

Updated on September 14, 2013

How Popular is Your Name and Where Did It Come From?

Currently the most popular surnames in the United States are: Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller, Davis, Garcia, Rodriguez, Wilson. Would you like to know the popularity of your name and where it came from? Many names have religious or cultural meanings, and in looking up the origins of a name you will notice the patterns used through the generations.

Where Our Names Came From

Your Name Holds Clues to the Origin of Your Ancestors

Our names are our identity, what distinguishes one person from the next. In early days a person needed only a first name as an identity. These first names usually had an early meaning: Matthew, Gift of God; or Paul, small or humble.

As the world population grew, people were given names that described their occupation or something else that, again, would become an identifier and distinguish them from others. Smith, Miller, Carpenter, Shepherd and Knight are examples of surnames derived from occupations. In some countries children were identified by adding "son" on the father's name. John's son became Johnson. These are just obvous examples, but some kind of meaningful system evolved for each geographical area.

What We Can Learn About Ourselves and Others Through Names

Where We Fit In a Big World

When you study the origin of your own name, first and last, you add information to your personal identity. You find clues as to your origins in the context of the whole world. Of course, there is only one you. Many people can have the same name and even the same general origins and be entirely different from one another.

It helps us to feel grounded to know where we came from. In the United States and other "newer" countries, we can descend from many different areas. My father's side are mainly from England and Ireland and my mother's side from Holland, England and Scotland. My grandchildren add Portugal and Mexico to their ancestral origins. By the way, what an interesting approach to geography and history. Far more interesting than a sequential study of facts in books.

The 50 Most Popular Surnames (Last Names)

From the 2000 U.S. Census

How popular or common is your last name today? Here are the 50 most popular surnames in the U.S. Today. (Check the census for your country.) See if your name is on it. If not, go to U.S. Census Bureau | Genealogy to look your name up.

It's also very interesting to see what other conclusions can be drawn from the data on the names.



















































Find More Names and Hang Them on Your Family Tree

Your Own Name is Just a Start

You can't research your name without connecting to others with the same name. Start collecting the names you're connected to and hang them on your family tree.

Thanks for stopping by, and please come back again!

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I also want to know where my surname originated. I believe I have a Spanish blood..LOL

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 

      7 years ago

      I have often wanted to research my family's name. I think finding the original roots would be fascinating.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Fascinating stuff! How interesting that, of the ten most popular surnames in USA, 5 are English, 3 are Welsh and 2 are Spanish. I don't know Spanish at all but two of the British ones are occupational and the rest patronymic. I love names - there's a real romance to them


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