Regional Science Annual Conference, Limerick, 2009

The presentation below was my winning submission to the Best Young Researcher Presentation award at the 49th Annual Regional Science Conference in Limerick, Ireland.

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 ( 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.

Continuation of this work will see the methods applied more generally to other countries in the Worldnames database in addition to finer resolution work on surname regionalization within selected urban areas. The latter can be applied to mapping ethnic segregation as surname ethnicity can be derived from the Onomap ( software created alongside the Worldnames database.

Thanks to Alex Singleton for organizing and co-authoring my submission.

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