In an earlier post, we had some fun with Wolfram|Alpha’s popular collection of name data and its ability to compare given names’ popularity and demonstrate historical naming trends. Wolfram|Alpha can also compute statistics for surnames, rank them in order of commonality, and provide the approximate number of people living in the United States with any last name.
The data Wolfram|Alpha uses to compute surname statistics is largely drawn from name results from the U.S. Census. The United States is sometimes referred to as a “melting pot” because of the number of people who move to it from all corners of the world, bringing and melding their native cultures. Because of this, surnames found in the U.S. have origins from all over the world.
In this example below, we compare a set of random surnames. Take a guess at the most common surname in the U.S. Yes, it’s Smith. According to Wolfram|Alpha there are approximately 2.376 million Smiths living in the U.S.—that’s almost the population of Nevada.
A quick query of the surname “Jefferson” reveals that it is 594th most popular surname in the U.S. If you are a Jefferson, that means 1 in every 5252 people shares your last name, or a total of 51, 361 people—that would be some family reunion!
Go ahead and query Wolfram|Alpha to learn more about the number of people living in the U.S. who share your last name. It may be more (or less) common than you think!