Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Doing a Surname Spread Study

My TGF chat colleague Christy Fillerup asked an interesting question on 31 May on the TGF Mailing List about a Surname Spread Study. Her specific question was:

"Specifically what I would like to do is create a study of the spread of a surname in the 1841 census in Derbyshire, and possibly throughout England. I would like to eventually represent this graphically on a map. "

While her question was specific to England, she got several answers about the USA also.

* Lois Mackin mentioned: "I found this web page addressing British surname distribution studies: http://homepages.newnet.co.uk/dance/webpjd/intro/distribution.htm" Lois's post also suggested using Ancestry.com to obtain the 1841 England census data for the surname for Derbyshire and copy/paste it into Microsoft Excel. From there, the user could import it to a genealogy database program, save it as a GEDCOM, and perhaps even import the GEDCOM to Ancestral Atlas and see maps showing surname distribution. Excellent suggestions!

* Barbara Schenck had interesting comments, including: "You can use Surname Atlas UK to accomplish exactly what it sounds as if you want to do. While it gives you the distribution of the 1881 census online, you can create your own 'maps' for any surname or group thereof that you desire." Surname Atlas UK can be found at http://www.archersoftware.co.uk/satlas01.htm.

* Ann Staley said: "Check out http://www.hamrick.com/names/index.html It covers 1850, 1880, 1920, and 1990." This is for the United States, and only covers by state, not by county. The maps are color-coded in terms of 1 in xx,xxx persons (the scale runs from 1 in 100 to 1 in 10,000 in 9 steps on a logarithmic scale). Therefore, you need to know the population in the state of each year to figure out approximately how many of a given surname are in a state in a given year).

The use of Ancestral Atlas to map surname distribution may be feasible (and by extension http://www.worldhistory.com/ also). The Hamrick site is interesting but not particularly useful for Christy's purposes (or someone else's study in the USA) because it is statistical with broad ranges and by state rather than county.

This is a great example of how a research techniques mailing list can be used to find the answers to questions from the genealogy world quickly and efficiently.

Do you subscribe to mailing lists for your surnames of interest, your localities of interest, and your research interests? If not, you should - go find mailing lists for your interests at http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ and subscribe to them. You can search the list archives at that link also.

I do - I subscribe to about 20 mailing lists, and receive 30 to 100 posts each day by email. It takes me 5 to 10 minutes to read them and save the ones of major interest. It's well worth my time.


Caroline said...

Good post! Surname studies can be great to really get the overall view of the particular family one is researching. I have been doing one on the Casteel name and it's various migrations. I've been using Family Atlas, which has been very helpful. Like you, I do subscribe to many surname mailing lists, which have proven very beneficial in my research.


Greta Koehl said...

Surname distribution is an interesting subject. I attended a presentation given by Leslie Dalley Bouvier to the Fairfax Genealogical Society on this subject (http://gretabog.blogspot.com/2009/03/fairfax-genealogical-society-surname.html).