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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 20, 2010 in Featured Maps, Surnames, Visualisation | 3 comments

Surname Diversity in Great Britain

Surname Diversity in Great Britain

As part of my PhD research I recently produced the map below (high res. version) that shows the diversity of surnames in Great Britain. I wanted to demonstrate that surname diversity is not uniform across Great Britain. For example towns and cities (especially London) have relatively high surname diversities compared with rural areas because more migrants and single people live in them. Wales has a very low surname diversity due to its past naming conventions. The measure used is calculated by dividing the number of surnames by the total population of each Output Area (OA). There are over 200,000 OAs in Britain. Urban OAs are very small despite accounting for a large proportion of the total population, so I have scaled the size of each OA by their population (the map is therefore a cartogram). This creates the somewhat bloated appearance of Great Britain, but serves to emphasise the increased surname diversity (due to more single people and migrants) in towns and cities. The correct shape of Great Britain...

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Posted by on Feb 9, 2010 in Surnames, Visualisation | 0 comments

Great Britain’s Surname Cloud

Great Britain’s Surname Cloud

As part of the research group that created the National Trust Surnames Profiler I have access to a comprehensive database of surnames in Great Britain. Most of my analysis on this database is spatial so I thought I would look at non-spatial way of illustrating the fact that in Britain the majority of people have a rare surname and that there are relatively few “popular”. This distribution is often referred to as having a long tail, as can be seen from the graph below. I find this graph lacks impact and novelty and it is hard to label a meaningful number of names along the x-axis. The surname clouds above have a greater impact by clearly demonstrating the popularity of a few surnames, such as Smith and Jones, in Britain and the large numbers of rarer surnames. I have only included the top 500 names for clarity. Comparisons between 1881 and 2001 are interesting. It would appear that the big names, such as Smith, dominate less now than they...

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Posted by on Dec 11, 2009 in Surnames | 0 comments

IEEE Geospatial Computing Workshop

Yesterday I presented the paper “Combining Historic Interpretations of the Great Britain Popualtion with Contemporary Spatial Analysis: the Case of Surnames” during the Geospatial Computing Workshop at the 5th IEEE International Conference on e-Science . You can download the extended abstract here and I have uploaded the complete presentation below. In later posts I will provide a summary of the other papers presented in what I thought was a very interesting session. [slideshare...

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