A new online database may help many people trace their family roots one step further. The Surnames Profiler database contains information on the size and geographical distribution of 25,630 family names across Great Britain. There are plans to expand that number to 280,000 surnames.
Developed by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Surnames Profiler shows the origin of surnames, their frequency, and geographical distribution, tracing the movement of people with the same names from the 19th century to today. Information is displayed on a color-coded map of Great Britain, showing the distribution of the surname being searched.
In addition to mapping surnames across the UK, the project has uncovered where common surnames can be found within the country, giving another clue to the origins of each name.
This is not a true genealogy site although it can often offer genealogy clues. It is especially useful when genealogists have no idea where to look for records since this free database lists where the names are commonly found. The rarer the name, the more useful the hints.
The information in this database is based upon census records from 1881 and from modern-day surname records extracted from the credit history database of Experian. (Only surnames were extracted from Experian. There are no first names and no credit information in this database.)
The project has produced some interesting results, such as the number of people with Scottish surnames living in London's Caribbean communities. Many Scots moved overseas two or three centuries ago, and their descendants are moving to London many years later.
Social changes are also evident from the research. For example, in 1881 the census found nobody named Patel in the UK; today the surname is the 40th most popular in the country.
Smith remains the number one surname in the UK, used by more than half a million people, and is most concentrated in Lerwick, Shetland. Almost 400,000 people are named Jones, with Williams and Brown in third and fourth position.
The Economic and Social Research Council study took three years to complete and cost £45,500 ($80,000 U.S.).
The Surname Profiler Project's database is available at http://www.spatial-literacy.org/uclnames. Click on "Start a surname search." That text is almost hidden on the page, but you can find it in the green line below the page title.Clicking on the words leads you to the database.