Map Your Surname

Have you ever wondered where other people live who share your last name?

I did.

My last name is Bovitz, originally spelled “Bavec” back when my great-grandfather still lived in Slovenia.  Once he settled in the United States, our surname was eventually anglicized to be spelled as it sounded.

As a curious genealogist, one of my favorite web sites is the World Names Public Profiler.  It was developed by the University College London based on telephone directories and electoral registers from the years 2000-2005.  The data cover over 300 million people in 26 countries.

What can a genealogist do with this web site?

First, one can get a visual representation of a particular surname of interest on a global level.  The data provide a curious researcher with how many people live in different areas around the world with the surname of choice.

For example, let’s look at my current maiden name: Bovitz (Please click on images to get to full size):

The "Bovitz" surname distribution worldwide.

Right away, you can see my last name is only somewhat popular in the United States.  The distribution in the US is 0.69 FPM (frequency per million).  This number is pretty low when you compare it to common last names like Jones:

The "Jones" surname distribution worldwide. Jones is my mothers maiden name.

In the US alone, the distribution of the Jones surname is nearly 5,000 FMP.  That’s quite a huge increase from my father’s surname FPM of just 0.69!

Second, this web site will also shed some light on the roots of your surname.  See the Jones example above?  It tells me that Jones most likely is of Celtic/Welsh origin.  My Jones ancestor did indeed immigrate from Wales.

Third, there are top countries, regions, cities, and even first names given with each surname.  Again, the “Top Places” and “Top Names” are the results of statistical analyses of millions of pieces of data.  It’s another great tool for a genealogist to use to further his or her ancestral research.

Interestingly, here is what the Global Surname Profiler had to say about my “true” surname, before it was anglicized:

World distribution of "Bavec" surname

And, focusing in on the country of highest “Bavec” density, Slovenia:

Slovenia: the county with the highest density of the "Bavec" surname

This map really helped my genealogical research in the beginning. I focused my research on the dark blue area: the municipality of Loska dolina, Slovenia.  And, over the years, I have found, that almost 100% of the Bovitzes, Bavecs, and even Bavetzes (and other variations of “Bavec”) who immigrated to the United States around the turn of the 20th century all came from this small part of Slovenia.

I encourage all curious and eager genealogist and family historians to check out this wonderful web site.  All you have to do is enter your surname of interest and an email. They promise never to give your email to a third party.  Their database is immense, and the University is willing to share it with us researchers.

It’s too good too not check it out.