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Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 in Resources, Surnames | 0 comments

My Academic Research: What’s in a Name?

My Academic Research: What’s in a Name?

I have spent the last few years investigating the geography of family names (also called surnames). I work with the team who assembled the UCL Department of Geography Worldnames Database that contains the names and geographic locations of over 300 million people in nearly 30 countries (a few of these are yet to be added to the website). My research has focussed on the 152 million or so people we have data for in Europe and they all come from publicly available telephone directories or electoral rolls. I also had access to a historical dataset for Great Britain in the form of the 1881 census.  I have tried to answer two questions: 1. Is it possible to approximately establish the origin of a surname based on its modern day geographic distribution? 2. Are particular surnames more likely to be found together and if so do they form distinct geographic regions? In the past surname research has involved  lot of manual work to create a detailed history of a particular name. With so many surnames in the database I had...

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Posted by on Aug 31, 2011 in Media, Surnames | 0 comments

Interview for the Global Lab Podcast

Interview for the Global Lab Podcast

This week I feature on the 4th Episode of the Global Lab podcast. The podcast is a great new initiative led by Martin and Steve from CASA where they talk about cities, global connectivity and the impact of technology on people’s lives. Episode four features some horrendous physics jokes, Einstein’s Garden at the Green Man festival and a few minutes of me sounding a little underwhelmed about my research. You can listen...

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Posted by on Jan 28, 2011 in Featured Maps, Surnames, Visualisation | 0 comments

My Week in Maps

My Week in Maps

This week has been a busy one with the “publication” of a couple of maps I have been involved with alongside the circulation of a few cartographic gems. I thought I would share my mapping highlights. To have something published in the National Geographic is a great honour. The map of US Surnames has proved hugely popular and was a great project to work on. A real high point in my PhD research so far. The popularity of a London version of the US Surname Map outstripped all expectations with 10s of thousands of visitors. Cartographically less impressive than the US map but much more detailed, I think the main thing people are most surprised (and perhaps disappointed about) is just how many “Smiths” there are! I’ve not quite worked out if this map shows anything surprising but I really like the cartography so “Profane Mountains, Polite Plains” gets a shout out here. It shows the frequency of swearwords in people’s Tweets across the US. This map of scientific collaborations...

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Posted by on Jan 24, 2011 in Featured Maps, London, Surnames, Visualisation | 14 comments

Mapping London’s Surnames

Mapping London’s Surnames

Inspired by the What’s in a Surname? map we helped make with the National Geographic, I have created 15 interactive typographic maps to show the most popular surnames across London. What they lack in cartographic brilliance, I hope they make up for in detail. There are 983 geographic units (Middle Super Output Areas) in each map and across all 15 there are 2379 individual surnames (15,000 surname labels in total). The font size for each surname label has been scaled to give an idea of the number of people who have that surname in each place. The surname frequencies come from the 2001 Electoral Roll and won’t contain everyone living in London but it is one of the best datasets available. London is renowned for being a diverse city but this is barely reflected in the most prevalent surnames- only a few name origins can be discerned from the map. You have to look a little further down the surname rankings for this diversity to become apparent. The surnames shown...

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Posted by on Jan 21, 2011 in Featured Maps, Surnames, Visualisation | 6 comments

What’s in a Surname? (AKA United States of Surnames!)

What’s in a Surname? (AKA United States of Surnames!)

The typographic map above (click for interactive version) is a collaboration between Oliver Uberti‘s design team at National Geographic Magazine and and my own research with UCL Geography’s Worldnames database. It shows the top 25 surnames in each US State (totaling 181 unique surnames), their frequency and their country of origin. The text associated with the map goes as follows: “What’s in a Surname? A new view of the United States based on the distribution of common last names shows centuries of history and echoes some of America’s great immigration sagas. To compile this data, geographers at University College London used phone directories to find the predominant surnames in each state. Software then identified the probable provenances of the 181 names that emerged. Many of these names came from Great Britain, reflecting the long head start the British had over many other settlers. The low diversity of names in parts of the British Isles also had an impact. Williams, for example, was a common name among Welsh immigrants—and is...

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Posted by on Nov 28, 2010 in Surnames | 0 comments

Surnames for the Big Chill

Surnames for the Big Chill

Thanks to the jet stream, many parts of the UK have just had the coldest November night on record. During these extreme weather events we become especially interested in weather maps and, of course, the #uksnow map is busier than ever. In such times we often talk about Jack Frost, but what about Mr Blizzard or Ms Snow?  I have produced a map to show the places you are most likely to find them. If you like the cold perhaps you can thank them; if you don’t, ask nicely and they may be able to arrange some warmer weather. For Carto-Nerds: This map has not been adjusted for the underlying population density of Great Britain, which is why it closely resembles a map of urban areas. The underlying spatial units for the density analysis are Output Area centroids which have been roughly standardised for population. Taking the relative frequency of the name therefore makes little difference (I have tried it). There are some more involved ways of accounting for...

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