Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Distribution of Surnames

The superbly named Namensverbreitungskarte is an interactive map which can show the distribution of surnames in Germany. Enter a family name into the map and you can see where people with that name lived in 1996 and in 1890. The distribution is based on German casualty lists of the 1st World War and the German phone directory from 1996.

One neat feature of Namensverbreitngskarte is that you can visualize more than one name at once. Search for a new name and its distribution will be added to the map using a different color. For example the map above shows the 1880 distribution of the names Kruse, Kraus and Krause. The Benrath Line (a line which roughly divides German northern and southern dialects) can be seen in the distribution of the name's variations across Germany. If you click on the 'About Name distribution map' link you can view a few more interesting examples of the distribution of various German surnames. 

The German Surname Map is another fascinating tool for visualizing the geographical distribution of surnames in Germany. Enter a surname into the tool and you can view a map showing where people with that name are distributed throughout the country. 

If you enter the name Merkel into the map (the name of the ex-German Chancellor) you will discover that it is a common surname in Germany, with quite an even distribution throughout the country. Angela Merkle was born in Hamburg. There appear to be quite a few Merkles in Hamburg, although the biggest concentration of the surname appears to be in some of the southern states.

In Germany you can also use GeoGen to view the geographical distribution of German surnames. The use of three dimensional stacks on this map helps to make it a little more clear where a particular surname has its highest concentration in the country.

Searching Merkel on GeoGen and the German Surname Map seems to suggest that the highest concentration of Merkels in Germany can be found in Baden-Baden. However as neither map uses place-name labels it isn't always easy to determine individual towns on either map (the highest concentration of Merkels may therefore be in one of Baden-Baden's closest neighboring towns). 

If you want to research the geographical distribution of surnames in other countries then you can use:

You can also explore the global distribution of your family name using Forebears. You can use Forebears to undertake a global search for your surname. If you enter a surname into Forebears it will tell you both the meaning of your name and show you a map of the global distribution of your name. Beneath this generated map you can view a list showing the number of incidences of your surname recorded in each country around the world. It also shows the ratio of people with your surname in each country and the rank of your name in comparison to the incidence of all over surnames in each country.

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