Using Surname Distribution Maps

Have you ever tried out a surname distribution map? I’ve tried a couple and they are both fun and useful. Beginning with a caveat, though, you will find that common surnames won’t give you much useful information unless you want to know how many people there are with that name. If you want to narrow down localities, you won’t have much luck.

However, if your surname of interest is less common – like Stufflebean – these maps can actually be very useful. One of the easiest to use is Public Profiler because it brings up names worldwide. Again, I have to add a caveat – if your surname spelling has changed from its original form, you will probably need to know its original incarnation to be successful.

Here’s an example. First, I looked for Stufflebeans worldwide on Public Profiler, which does require an email log-in, but is free. It also has a component specifically geared towards Great Britain.

I clicked on the link in the box with the globe and then entered my surname in the search box. The only place in the world where the Stufflebean surname is found is in the United States, which isn’t a surprise. Here is where the second caveat that I mentioned comes in. Stufflebean evolved from the original surname Stoppelbein.

What results appeared? There are a few in the U.S., but most live in Germany, which is also not a surprise. The name is prevalent in the Rheinland Palatinate area of Germany. Wild cards brought up no hits, so it really is important to enter variant spellings of your name.

I am actually a bit surprised at how many surname distribution map sites there are online. There is a list on FamilySearch, but a number of the websites either only focus on the meaning of a surname or bring up hits to data on family trees or the website has shut down.

Here is a more up to date list. Some are specific to one country, which might be more accurate than, say, a website that is trying to cover the world. Many of the country specific websites have instructions only in its own language, not in English, so you might need to use Google Translate.

These websites are all free to use.

Austria – Surname Distribution Maps of Austria
Belgium – FamilieNaam
Czech Republic – KdeJsme
France – Filae
Germany – GenEvolu
Germany – GeoGen 4.0
Germany & Netherlands – Verwandt
Ireland – Irish Ancestors
Italy – GENS
Netherlands – Meertens Instituut
Poland – Moikrewni
Switzerland – Verwandt

Forebears – This is a U.K. website, but covers the world.

I decided to try it out, again using Stufflebean and Stoppelbein. Here are the results:

The Stufflebean results were expected, but I was not prepared to see Stoppelbein hits only in the U.S. and none in Germany. This is a lesson to be sure to use more than one of these mapping websites.

I decided to try one more rare surname, Kacsenyak, which is one of my Slovak lines, but I got no hits, so there are search limitations on these websites.

However, if you are combining family history research with DNA testings to crack through some brick walls, these surname distribution maps are a handy companion tool.

5 thoughts on “Using Surname Distribution Maps”

  1. What a great resource! I especially like the mapping of British surnames circa 1881, which might help genealogists determine whence their surnames might have originated. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Dating of the distributions is important. At least one that I know of is based on the 1920 US Census. I would find one for 150 to 300 years earlier much more interesting and useful.

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