I have a fairly uncommon last name but after being in this country for 350 years it is not rare. It started me thinking: is there last name in the US that is considered the rarest?
There are about a dozen people in my family who currently have my last name. As far as I know, we’re the only ones with our name in the country, though I haven’t researched the issue thoroughly.
It’s possible the number is a bit larger than I think; I have a male cousin whose family makeup I’m only guessing at…
Undoubtedly there are fair number of last names that only a single person has in the US.
I have a very rare last name. There are only about 30 people with my last name in the US (20 of them in my family), and as far as I know none left in the area of Europe where it originated.
There are fewer than 10 people in my family still using our last name (which itself had its spelling changed over the last 100 years) and as near as we can tell, about five other people in the U.S. who spell their name the same way.
I’ll bet that with the “I guess this is how you spell it” nature of many Anglicized eastern European and non-European immigrant names, there are probably a whole passel of people with unique names, at least uniquely spelled.
There are those people who make up a “you’ve got to be kidding” name and get it officially changed. I’m sure they’re unique.
Both my father’s last name and my stepfather’s last name are fairly uncommon. I’ve never met anybody outside of family who has either name, although I know they exist. If I google my father’s last name, I only get one hit on someone who was not related; some artist in California.
Searched Facebook, LinkedIn, and an online phone directory. Couldn’t find anyone with the last name of ‘Rarest’.
I don’t google anyone with my last name (earned in marriage) in the US who isn’t of my ex-husband’s family. And there are only 7 people in his family with the name. There’s apparently a fairly famous Australian with our name, but I’ve never heard of him except when trying to google people with the name. So that’s 8 of us, total.
This is sort of the reverse of what you were looking for: U.S. Census: Frequently Occurring Surnames from Census 2000. But there is a document that has surnames occurring at least 100 times. So, if your surname’s not on that list, you’re in the running for a rare surname.
Anybody know of any statistics on how many Obama there are – in the United States, or anywhere?
I had a teacher in high school named Omerberg, who claimed once that he was the only Omerberg anywhere. (Leading one to wonder: Then where did you get that name from?) A quick google of the name turns up pages of them. I guess he proliferated.
When I was a teen, a certain friend and I entertained ourselves by leafing through the large phone book (Los Angeles) looking for bizarre and/or unique names. One that I recall was Nakonecznyj. (Sorry if that’s you, Colibri :D)
(ETA: To be sure, when you consider non-English names, those from certain languages or cultures seem very alien. Many Eastern European and many south-east Asian names are entirely non-English-like, in contrast to, say, German, Spanish, or French names.)
We also noted, of course, a whole page full of Ng. I showed that to my older brother, who felt sure it must be just a typo. But a whole page of them? And in other cities’ phone books too? Since then, over the years, I’ve know or dealt with several of them.
No, mine is a misspelling of a Swiss name.
Misspellings, of course, can easily result in a one-of-kind mutant name. So we gotta wonder if variant spellings of essentially the same name should count as being alike, for purposes of this OP.
My own surname has likewise mutated (several times) over the past 2 or 3 generations. In my case, this has transformed a moderately-uncommon name to another moderately-uncommon name, which might (I’m not sure of the etymologies) anyway be considered variant spellings of one name.
ETA: Speaking of variant spellings, I wonder if Ng, Eng, Ung, Ang, and Ong and maybe even Yang are all variant spellings of one Chinese word. One of the Ng’s in my life, my Differential Equations teacher, said the word is simply Chinese for “yellow”. She pronounced it like “Ung”.
You’ve been here 350 years? How old were you when you moved here?
There can be only one!
I used to think my last name was rather unique. Turns out, I can google any number of people with my entire name, not just my last name. Like A Whitney Brown once said about a billion people in China, "even if you’re a one-in-a-million type of guy, there are still a thousand guys exactly like you.”
That should help rule out names that people think are rare but aren’t very. I wouldn’t trust it as a proof of absence though. That is, if you look up Bob Wehadababy-Itsaboy there and they say no results, it’s possible he just wasn’t in the database they pulled. Their FAQ says they had to drop about 10% of values that were unique or rare.
This topic sounded intriguing enough that I did a Yahoo! search on it, only to find Rare Surnames and I was actually surprised to see when (and by whom) that thread had been started .
When we first got our computer in the 90’s we couldn’t find anyone with my husband’s last name. In Holland it goes back centuries.
Now there are quite a few of us and it’s not my fault nor my children’s. But someone out there has been busy emmigrating and multiplying.
A couple of my mom’s friends, when they got married, changed both of their names to a portmanteau of their former names. Unless there were other couples with those names getting married and choosing to likewise merge their names, I expect that they’re the only two people with that surname in the world.
One interesting thing is the percentage of people with stereotypically Spanish last names who, according to that census data, are not Hispanic. For example, 7.3 percent of people named Rodriguez and 9.19 percent of people named Garcia denied that they were Hispanic (or a family member who was filling out the form for them denied for them). I was speculating about this. Of these non-Hispanic Garcias, Rodriguezes, etc., how many are:
- Non-Hispanics married to Hispanic men who have taken their husband’s name, the stereotypically example of course being Mrs. Lucy McGillicuddy Ricardo of TV.
- Non-Hispanics adopted into a Hispanic family and given that name.
- People from a culture that had been conquered by the Spanish at some point and had Spanish names imposed on them but who now identify as non-Hispanic. Do Filipinos commonly consider themselves Hispanic? How about people who claim to be full-blood Aztec?
- People who have Hispanic heritage through their patrilineal lineage but who consider that heritage to be too diluted, remote, etc. to be an important part of them other than as a last name source. E.g. “My dad was Hispanic, but barely so. He didn’t speak a word of Spanish and even declined to claim a Hispanic scholarship because he didn’t think he deserved it. His father was somewhat Hispanic - he was born in the US and grew up speaking English but he picked up some Spanish from family members, and his father was very Hispanic and the last one born in a Spanish speaking area. My mother and my father’s mother were both Pennsylvania Dutch on both sides and that’s what I say I am.”
- Italians, Portuguese, etc. where the name crossed over at some point, was mistakenly spelled in the Spanish way on an immigration document and was never changed back, etc.
- People whose name was changed to a Hispanic one for some reason other than that listed here or descendants of that person.
The answer is probably all of them and that we can’t really know. Afaik in the US self-identification as Hispanic, White, or Black can’t be overruled as long as the identification was personally held, and possibly not at all.
On the other hand, 2.5% of Rosensteins are apparently Hispanic. Maybe lots of Puerto Rican girls marrying Brooklyn Jews?