CASA Working Paper

My Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) working paper titled “Family Names as Indicators of Britain’s Changing Regional Geography” has been published online. The paper is one of my PhD upgrade documents and contains the results from much of the research I have completed in my first year.  I begin by outlining the significance of surnames in Britain before outlining some of the spatial analysis I have employed to discover if there is a regionality in the British populations’ surnames, and whether this has changed between 1881 and 2001. My results contain plenty of maps to demonstrate where I think the regions fall and I accompany these with a discussion of the appropriateness of each of the methodologies I have used. I must stress that this is a working paper and therefore provides a benchmark on the way to completed research- many of my results and the subsequent conclusions have yet to undergo the rigours of peer review. You can download a copy of the paper here. I have pasted the abstract below.


Family Names as indicators of Britain’s Changing Regional Geography

James Cheshire, Pablo Mateos, and Paul A. Longley

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.