Spatial perspectives on historical surname distributions

Authors: Peter Rogerson*, SUNY - BUFFALO
Topics: Population Geography, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: population, demography, isonymy, surname distribution
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Studio 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Isonymy refers to the study of surnames and their relationship to cultural traits, geographic distribution, and characteristics such as migration and the degree of inbreeding in populations. Although geographers have devoted some effort to its study, it may be argued that the effort has not been proportional to the potential that spatial perspectives can bring to bear on the subject. One example of a particular topic with such potential is that of “isolation by distance”, which links genetic variability with migration; populations with limited dispersal become genetically more distinct from one another. The use of surname distributions for localities is one way to measure this construct. In particular, the similarity of surnames in locations may be correlated with the distance between those locations. In general, one expects that the correlations is negative, where greater surname similarity is associated with smaller distances. Lacking in virtually all analyses of this type is an appreciation and use of advances in spatial analysis and spatial statistics that account for spatial dependencies and spatial autocorrelation in the data. Here I examine decennial census data from the 19th century for selected locations to illustrate the methods and to demonstrate the potential insights that may be achieved.

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