Thursday, 25 February 2010

Smith and Jones

Do you have a Smith as an ancestor? If not maybe you're on the wrong planet.

According to Wikipedia Smith is the most common surname in English-speaking countries. It's number one in Australia, England, Scotland, the USA, and probably New Zealand. It's 2nd in Canada, 5th in the Ireland, and 12th in Wales.

An article in the Summer 1976 issue of Population Trends, Smith and Jones: surnames in 1853 and 1975, examines entries in civil registration registers for both marriages and deaths in England and Wales. What surprised me was the comment that there are more entries for Jones than Smith in several years of the early period.

The 1841 census indexed by Ancestry has 210,040 Smiths in England, 2,376 in Wales, a total of 212,416. Jones is found 122,723 times in Wales, 86,713 in England, a total of 209,436. With more Smiths than Joneses I'd expect more Smith civil registrations.

These days it's simple and only slightly laborious to compile civil registration statistics from FreeBMD. That database is almost complete for this early period with only a single quarter missing more than 5% of events.

From the start of civil registration in July 1837 to the end of 1853 there were 2,815 more Smith births registered than Joneses, 132 more Smith deaths. Surprisingly there were 2,849 more Jones marriages than Smith. In only three of those years were there more Smith marriages.

Overall for the period there were only 98 more Smith than Jones events registered, but 10 years had more Jones events registered.

The lesson is you can't always take the number of registration events as a good index or surrogate for population.


Ellen said...

Finding my grandmother has a Smith for a mother, I knew it would be years of hunting for some lucky clue, and finally, from an article in Global Genealogy on pre government vital records was a link to New Brunswick newspapers transcribed and online.
It took only a few minutes to find the marriage notice in St. George's Church, Bathurst, NB, of Rebecca Ann Smith's father, Robert, who was born in Ireland. She was his fourth daughter. Then found his wife Jean or Jane Kerr, born in Scotland and was able to track her between provinces until she died in Ontario and was shipped home to Bathurst, New Brunswick, for burial. Thank goodness for only one Smith in the family line.
ET Morris

Brenda said...

At the OGS Conference on Friday, 14 May, speaker Thomas W. Jones is giving a presentation called "The Jones Jinx - Tracing Common Surnames." Something to look forward to?