These Are the Most Common Last Names in America

Smith, Johnson, and Lee...

These Are the Most Common Last Names in America

Last names are an interesting thing. Everyone has one and you really have no say in what it is. You use your last name for reservations, work paperwork, and really in every aspect of your life. You are either born with your given last name or married into it and at that point most people just accept their last name. You could legally change it, but who really wants to go through the process.

Some last names are really common and some are more original. A recent analysis done by looked into the most common last names in America and here is what they found.

When looking at the most common names in every state, Smith dominated the playing field, which is not surprising. Most everyone knows someone with the last name Smith. The last name Smith was the most common last name in over half of the US states. The surname Smith was prevalent most in the eastern part of the country. Trailing not far behind the Smith last namers were the Johnsons. Johnson is the second most common last name in the country, and has a strong presence in the northwest.

Another popular last name was Lee, which was the most common last name in six states (California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Hawaii).

Now let’s break things down by city. Again, not surprising that Johnson, Smith, and Lee were the most common last names in the major US cities, as well. But something interesting that comes up when looking at the city last names is Garcia, which is a Hispanic last name and was the most common last name in a few cities down near the US-Mexican border. It was the most common last name in cities like El Paso, Houston, and Fresno.

The analysis also looked into where the origin of the last names come from. The most common name in the country, Smith, comes from an English last name and has and occupational origin. Basically what this means is that if your last name is Smith, your ancestors were most likely blacksmiths. Kind of interesting to think about that last names originate from things like occupations. But if your last name is Johnson, your ancestors where most likely English or Scottish and it is not exactly clear what the occupation would’ve been, given that the name originates as a patronym.

Other common last names in the states have an interesting variety of linguistic origins including Welsh, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and French. Although, the largest number of American last names (65) have English roots. And the majority of American last names are patronymic in origin, meaning they’re a passed down father or family name.

The last thing the analysis looked at was the census change in the most common last names. The five most common names, Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, and Jones, didn’t see a shift in ranking over the 10-year span. But names that had large changes were names like Torres and Rivera, that are Hispanic in origin.

So whether you love your last name or hate it, it is interesting to look back on your family history and see where that last name came from. If you have a common last name it might be easier for you to find your roots, but if your last name is not so common, you may have a bit more trouble. But the trouble could pay off with some really interesting insight into where your family comes from. So maybe order a DNA test online or do one of those family tree websites and get to searching!

fact or fiction
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Pam Jannes
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