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Family names as indicators of Britain’s changing regional geography

Cheshire, JA; Mateos, P; Longley, PA; (2009) Family names as indicators of Britain’s changing regional geography. (CASA Working Paper 109). Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, UCL: London, UK. Green open access


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In recent years the geography of surnames has become increasingly researched in genetics, epidemiology, linguistics and geography. Surnames provide a useful data source for the analysis of population structure, migrations, genetic relationships and levels of cultural diffusion and interaction between communities. The Worldnames database (www.publicprofiler.org/worldnames) of 300 million people from 26 countries georeferenced in many cases to the equivalent of UK Postcode level provides a rich source of surname data. This work has focused on the UK component of this dataset, that is the 2001 Enhanced Electoral Role, georeferenced to Output Area level. Exploratory analysis of the distribution of surnames across the UK shows that clear regions exist, such as Cornwall, Central Wales and Scotland, in agreement with anecdotal evidence. This study is concerned with applying a wide range of methods to the UK dataset to test their sensitivity and consistency to surname regions. Methods used thus far are hierarchical and non-hierarchical clustering, barrier algorithms, such as the Monmonier Algorithm, and Multidimensional Scaling. These, to varying degrees, have highlighted the regionality of UK surnames and provide strong foundations to future work and refinement in the UK context. Establishing a firm methodology has enabled comparisons to be made with data from the Great British 1881 census, developing insights into population movements from within and outside Great Britain.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: Family names as indicators of Britain’s changing regional geography
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Keywords: surnames, britain, geography, regions
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Geography
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/18818
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