Determining how many people of a certain name exist/have existed

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is a small stream named Sam’s Creek. Way up close to Sam’s Creek’s headwaters, Starkey Creek merges with Sam’s Creek and continues down the mountain. One of my fishing buddies happens to be named Sam Starkey. This past weekend we hacked and hiked our way up to the confluence of Sam’s and Starkey Creeks and took a picture of Sam Starkey standing at the juncture. We then started discussing the likelihood of some other Sam Starkey ever having done so or doing so sometime in the future.

Now, Starkey is not totally obscure as a surname, but isn’t really all that common either. Is there a way, accessible to us mere mortals, to determine how many Sam, Samuel, Samantha, or other variant Starkeys have existed to date? I believe there is a way to search the Social Security death records for such things, but have no idea how to go about doing so. What other resources could be used in such a search? What about restricting the search to just the people who have lived in that particular region? Any ideas on how to go about conducting such an investigation would be greatly appreciated.

You can search for free up to a point, you get a 14-day free trial. Searching there will give you census records, death records and lots of other stuff, and not just for the US but for other places in the world (not everyone everywhere, of course). You might have to cross-reference for duplicates, but it’s a good start. is free.

Searching for Sam Starkey and limited the results to the Social Security Death index I get 93 results.

If we remove such as Bradley S Starkey and Fannie S Starkey we’re left with 17 Sam or Samuel Starkeys (No Samanthas) dead between 1956 and 2011. That’s a bit low to make many assumptions about the completeness of the data, but here’s the whole list of dates of death:


The presence of an early boom of Sam Starkey deaths at least show us that any estimate has to take into consideration the ebb and flow of names.

You can do a basic search on Find a Grave. I found 104 Sam Starkeys, that includes Sam, Samantha, and Samuel. There would have to be more since Find a Grave is user driven and there are tons of burials that haven’t been added.

Thanks for those suggestions. Some of my relatives have done the Ancestry thing in the past, but I didn’t know they offered a free trial period. I’ll have to look into that. And if FamilySearch is free that’s also a good thing. I did do a Google search and got a listing of FaceBook accounts that included quite a few Samantha Starkeys so I’m a little surprised the SSDI didn’t show any. Must be a more recent trend for the female naming.

The Find a Grave listing that Edward_The_Head linked to was interesting. Sam’s grandfather traced their branch of the Starkey family back to England in the early 1600s so it’s kind of cool that a significant number of the matching gravesites are on the old sod.

I’ll have to let my buddy Sam know that there are a lot more Sam Starkeys in the world than he expected. But the odds of any of them having made or making the hike up the mountain to that particular creek juncture is still likely to be pretty small.

Thanks again for the help, and if anyone else has any additional suggestions, by all means please keep them coming.

The SSDI is the Social Security Death Index, so you’re not going to find names on there who are still alive. That and they also changed the privacy laws in the last few years so it’s not as current as it once was.

You could look to see if you can find out why the rivers were named that. There is a good possibility that there are county or area history books from the area. Some of those books can be 1500+ pages long so it might be hard to find, but the info might be out there.

Maybe they’re distant cousins to Ringo Starr.

Whether they actually are or not, they’ve always claimed to be related to Sir Richard. Probably on the order of 17th cousins twice removed! :laughing:

I did a Find A Grave search but couldn’t locate anyone named Garrideb. :frowning: