Week 24: Popular Name

The most popular woman’s name among my direct ancestors is Mary; with its variants Marie and Maria, there are 152 women with this name.  The most popular man’s name is Thomas – there are 86 of them.  The most popular surname is Wilson – 16 people have this surname.  There is no one named Mary Wilson or Thomas Wilson in my tree.

(Note:  I have 10, 621 people in my main tree; when I sort for Direct Ancestors only, I have 1,471. The information in this essay focuses on my Direct Ancestors only.)

I figured this out today by sorting my family tree Excel spreadsheet and counting rows.  It’s not hard to create this spreadsheet:

  1. Download your GEDCOM from Ancestry
  2. Upload it to Family Tree Analyzer (this is a free program).  I know there are other programs that allow you to do this, but none of them are free so far as I know.
  3. Export the FTA spreadsheet to Excel
  4. Select columns and sort as you wish

The steps in this process are a little more fiddly than this, but it’s pretty easy.

Here’s how often names occur in my Direct Ancestors tree:

Here are my most popular surnames:

I expected some of these surnames to be on this list – my maiden name was Arnold, my mother’s maiden name was Workman, for example.  But some of the names surprised me – I recognize all of the names, but there are several in double digits – Wilson, Wheeler, Anderson, Brown, Potter, and Wilcox – that I knew were significant but I didn’t realize how significant.  This gives me something to focus on – I need to find out if there are surname studies for these particular names that might move my research forward.

So I know this post is focused on Popular Names, but here are some other things I was able to find out by looking at my spreadsheet:

My tree looks pretty complete through my 3rd great-grandparents; beyond that, I have lots of room to grow.  I chuckle when people say they are “finished” with their family tree.  I have  lots to do.

And there’s more:

  • Five of my Direct Ancestors lived to be 100 years old
  • I have 62 Direct Ancestors who lived to be 90
  • I have 27 Direct Ancestors who had more than 20 children
  • I have 26 Direct Ancestors who married more than three times.

All of these observations suggest possible research projects.  Who was having all of these children?  Who was marrying over and over again? 

My research will never be done.

Author: iseekdeadpeopleblog

I am a retired high school history and government teacher. I've been doing genealogy research since I retired in 2012. I define what I do as "constructing a plausible narrative about the past." I don't claim to know everything about the ancestors whose stories I tell, but I try to imagine myself in their lives. I sometimes call it "creative non-fiction." I try to differentiate between what I know for sure and what I "think" I know.

One thought on “Week 24: Popular Name”

  1. Amazing!!! I’m not in Ancestry yet but when I am I’ll give this exercise a try. What wonderful information at your disposal, and yes, many starting points for more research. Inspiring! 🙏


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