We all want to know where our ancestors came from but many of us are also curious as to where our distant relatives now live. A new web site can provide many such clues, if not definitive answers.
The Public Profiler site plots eight million last names using data from electoral rolls and phone directories. The site covers 300 million people in 26 countries, showing the origins of names and where families have moved to. The site also reveals which of the five million first names (forenames) are most closely associated with different surnames and lists the top regions and cities for each surname.
The Public Profiler web site 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 shows.
I found the site easy to use. Enter a surname and see where others of that name are located around the world. Dots are shown on a world map is shown with each dot representing a concentration of people with that name. The more unusual name, the better it works.
When I visited the site, I found it to be very, very slow. It seems that the site is brand new and is apparently overwhelmed by users. It is far more popular than the creators expected and the web server it runs on was not designed to handle the heavy load. I received several errors of “Error..Database is busy..“ when using it. If you encounter the same, you might leave and then try again in a few hours or even in a few days.
To try the Public Profiler site, go to http://www.publicprofiler.org/worldnames.