RefQ: What's The Most Common FULL Name?


Got an email reference question that I thought might be of interest... "I've been trying to determine the most common name in the
US. Not the most common first name, not the most common last name - of
which there are many resources, ranking them by birth year (census),
and overall. But of the *full name*.

Just because there's a lot of people named James, doesn't mean
that there aren't more Johns with the last name Johnson.

I did try a couple of library answering services, but they
drew blanks as well, giving it their best guesses."


But's Frequent Names/Name Methodology might be able to help (or heck, maybe a librarian there can do a better search than I?). I guess it also depends on whether the patron wants the most common names since the birth of the nation, or the most common names now.

NARA might also be a good place to look for the historical aspect.

The real problem is the given name occuring with a surname combination. It probably will take some tweaking on the site to get a reasonable answer.

I'm sure these sites were consulted, but they can be a bear to navigate. Thought I'd throw them out there, anyhoo.

Data set contains 7.2 million records (1/40th of the US), with 15% of those records not providing enough information to form a name. The initial seed records were taken from 377,000 persons living in 165,000 housing units in 5,300 predefined blocks - then the surrounding ring block records were consulted. It was intentionally selected to over-sample Blacks and Hispanics.Resulting in 88K surnames, 4.2K Female names and 1.2K Male namesBut most people who do not live alone share a last name with other people in that household. Thus the 63 persons with that rare name may be the result of 16 households, which would raise the coefficient of variation to approximately 25 percent.Families tend to live close to each other, and it is not impossible to conceive a situation where all Americans with a certain surname appear in sample. If so, it over-states the appearance of that name by a factor of 40. And of course, if rare surnames exist outside of the sample area, they're not included.The trick is indeed the matching the first name to the last name. Just because of all people now living, James is the most common name, doesn't mean that at .1% it couldn't be out-weighed by familial weighting... For a thought example: suppose Johnson is the most common last name. And John is the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 10th most common male name. If they were independent variables, like say your favorite color and the first word on page 42 of the novel laying closest to hand, then we'd probably go with James Johnson. However, Johnson families may tend to pick first names of ancestors at more than a noise level. If so, perhaps (etymology of Johnson here), John is more common than James in the greater family (historically), leading to more people named John in the Johnson family than James. If so, perhaps John Johnson is more common than James Johnson. And perhaps James Doe is even more common than John Johnson... Because the Doe greater family are huge fans of the name James. (See George Foreman for an example of this)Without reasonably full survey data, and really randomly selected (not weighted via race, nor selected by household - as the census data is), we'll have no way of knowing.It seems that a phone/in-person survey of 88K randomly selected people should give you a reasonable guesstimate for the most common first-last name combo. At least, for the US population.The Census people probably won't tell you what the most common name is... privacy issues.Perhaps we should ask the Secure Flight guys. They've got reasonably large sets of people's names, and no privacy concerns. However, I'm loathe to ask the security goons, because that stuff all goes into your file, and who knows what they'll make of the person asking the question. I don't particularly need to disappear over something like that.So is there an older librarian who wants to take one for the team? ;)-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

Name Statistics

Most common first names and last names.

Uses Census data. Plunk a first or last name into the text box and find out how it ranks in popularity -- i.e.,

kennedy is the #137 most common last name.
0.067% of last names in the US are kennedy.
Around 167500 US last names are kennedy!

FAQ here.

This sounds like one of those "barroom bet" reference questions....

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