Garcias Are Catching Up With Joneses

There was an interesting article in the New York Times on Saturday about a new report from the Census Bureau that says,

Step aside Moore and Taylor. Welcome Garcia and Rodriguez.

Smith remains the most common surname in the United States, according to a new analysis released yesterday by the Census Bureau. But for the first time, two Hispanic surnames — Garcia and Rodriguez — are among the top 10 most common in the nation, and Martinez nearly edged out Wilson for 10th place.

The article online also includes a database where you can search for a surname and see the ranking of that surname, how many Americans out of 100,000 carry that name, it’s rank in 1990, and how much it has moved up or down since 1990. It’s kind of fun to play with. I found that in addition to carrying the #1 surname of Smith, I am also researching Miller, which comes in at #6 and Kelly, which is #69. So to all the Garcia and Rodriguez researchers out there, I feel your pain. 😉

On the bright side, researching really common surnames IMHO helps us really hone those research skills!

One other item I noted was that the article says that

Generations ago, immigration officials sometimes arbitrarily Anglicized or simplified names when foreigners arrived from Europe.

Marian Smith, USCIS Historian has written an article on this subject, that although seems to be missing from the USCIS website these days, did turn up on an Eastern Slovakian genealogy website. In part, it says,

During immigration inspection at Ellis Island, the immigrant confronted an inspector who had a passenger list already created abroad. That inspector operated under rules and regulations ordering that he was not to change the or identifying information found for any immigrant UNLESS requested by the immigrant, and unless inspection demonstrated the original information was in error.

Furthermore, it is nearly impossible that no one could communicate with the immigrant. One third of all immigrant inspectors at Ellis Island early this century were themselves foreign-born, and all immigrant inspectors spoke […] three languages. They were assigned to inspect immigrant groups based on the languages they spoke. If the inspector could not communicate, Ellis Island employed an army of interpreters full time, and would call in temporary interpreters under contract to translate for immigrants speaking the most obscure tongues.

Click here to read the entire article by Marian.

Despite that one statement, the New York Times article was interesting. It made me wonder how much that list has changed over the years. We often see the list of “most popular baby names” for a particular year, but don’t always think about surnames changing in frequency. But when you think about every immigration wave in history has probably impacted this list. Something to consider as you research.


3 thoughts on “Garcias Are Catching Up With Joneses

  1. Neat resource. Looks like my surname dropped in rank over 400 places since 1990. Not enough family members had kids to keep the numbers up I guess.

  2. Thanks for the article. I especially had fun going through the 5,000 names and seeing where some of the names I am working on fall in rank.

  3. Oh how I feel the pain! I am researching a Juan Martinez in San Antonio, Texas around the years 1910-1930.

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