In an attempt to provide a ranked listing of the popularity of particular surnames in the United States, the Report of Distribution of Surnames in the Social Security Number File was consulted.
The Social Security Administration publishes this work every 10 years using Social Security Indexes. Only the indexes that have over 5,000 entries are used for this Report. The most current Report (1984) was used for this database as the 1994 edition was never published.
Unfortunately, the Report has some essential downfalls that must be noted to understand the incongruities and apparent mistakes that appear in the ranking:
- Data from the Social Security Files have never been purged. In other words, the report lists almost 350 million people, about 75 million more than live in the U.S. today.
- The Report sorts surnames by only the first 6 letters. Accordingly, names like Edward, Edwarde, Edwardes, Edwards and Edwardson are all ranked as 53rd.
All would agree that all 5 surnames cannot have the same ranking, but as the Report only provides the information as above, it may seem as though mistakes have been made.
In preparing this database, the authors chose to include this information with the full understanding that rankings may seem ludicrous at times. It is hoped that in future a better benchmark will be available.
Please note: in most cases, only one of the many surnames of the same rank was provided as by way of example for these histories. The selection was arbitrary and has no bearing on the lack of popularity of the rest of the spelling variations.
- ^ Swyrich, Archive materials