What’s the Mormon-est Surname?

April 17, 2006 | 58 comments
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A while back I stumbled upon this website that allows you to map the prevalence of a given surname, by state, in the United States for the years 1850, 1890, 1920, and 1990. Of course, I immediately thought of looking at which names are most disproportionately represented in Utah and adjacent states, with the goal of identifying uniquely (Utah-) Mormon names.

I used maps for 1920, when Mormons had had some time to settle and reproduce, but were still highly concentrated in the mountain west. Let’s start with maps for some likely suspects:
Smith, Young, Kimball

Hmmm, not too impressive….let’s try some T&S permabloggerish names:
Oman, Haglund, Harris, Welch, Evans, Call

Still mostly disappointing, with the except for Call, which looks pretty Mormon. How about,
Cannon, Tanner, Allred

Still not so great. Let’s try,
Merrill, Hinckley, Pratt

Now we’re getting somewhere…

In the end, after a non-exhaustive and un-systematic search, I announce that my nominations for the award for Mormon-est name go to:
Romney and Nielsen

(We’ll see if the Massachusetts governor finds it as easy to capture the Republican nomination as it was for his name to capture this nomination.)

P.S. – Here’s a similar site for counties in Britain. Happy tax day!

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58 Responses to What’s the Mormon-est Surname?

  1. Eric Russell on April 17, 2006 at 9:55 am

    This is cool.

    It wasn’t popular enough to hit the register in 1920, but try Fullmer in 1990. That’s not bad for 1990.

  2. M L on April 17, 2006 at 10:10 am

    I think with the European and primarily Scandinavian efforts of the early church, some of the best bets are Hansen and Jensen. Both are off the charts in Utah and Idaho in 1920.

  3. MDS on April 17, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Using 1990, my surname, Stanger, is clearly Utah-centric, as is McConkie.

  4. Geoff J on April 17, 2006 at 10:27 am

    Yeah, I’m with M L — going with the Scandinavian names seems like a good bet. Johnsen, Hansen, Jensen, etc is a pretty good bet.

  5. DHofmann on April 17, 2006 at 10:28 am

    Snow works out pretty well, at least among the western states.

  6. Ed Johnson on April 17, 2006 at 11:01 am

    Hansen! Why didn’t I think of that? I tried some other Scandanavian names, like Christensen, but they weren’t as good as Hansen (or Jensen).

    The differences between 1990 and 1920 are interesting.

  7. a spectator on April 17, 2006 at 11:06 am

    Try Sorensen in 1880.

  8. john f. on April 17, 2006 at 11:35 am

    Try Jensen, 1880 or Sorensen, 1880.

    I think that search for 1880 is a better indicator of Mormon surnames — and the key is definitely using Danish or other Scandinavian surnames.

    Fowles, 1990 shows that my name is pretty Mormon compared to distributions throughout the rest of the U.S.

  9. Hans Hansen on April 17, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    Hansen, huh? Sounds just right for me!

  10. Kimball Hunt on April 17, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    Lol. (My grandmother was a Hansen.)

  11. norm on April 17, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Clyde+1990 looks like a winner (http://www.hamrick.com/names/names.cgi?surname=clyde&year=1990&type=html)

    Asay+1990 too.
    (http://www.hamrick.com/names/names.cgi?surname=asay&year=1990&type=html)

    Udall +1990, less common, but clearly only Mormon.
    (http://www.hamrick.com/names/names.cgi?surname=udall&year=1990&type=html)

    Penrod (a family name) has an interesting distribution.
    Looks like, Mormons and disaffected Mormons. 1920 = common and exclusive to CA, MO, and WV. 1990 = Mormon Intermountain & (RLDS) Midwest

  12. John Mansfield on April 17, 2006 at 1:46 pm
  13. norm on April 17, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    Hafen (a winner), Hatch, Farnsworth (interesting), Flake (Mormon)–this is fun.

    Most Fundamentalist Mormon name (and maybe most Mormon): Jeffs+1990 of course!

    What’s the least Mormon name? Brannan + 1990 shows Utah as a gaping hole in the West.

    What’s the most Mormon, non-Anglo/non-Scandinavian name?
    LeSeuer+1990? Anyone?

  14. Last Lemming on April 17, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    and the key is definitely using Danish or other Scandinavian surnames.

    Really just Danish (ending in “sen”). Norwegian and Swedish names (ending in “son”) show up mostly in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

  15. jimbob on April 17, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    Actually, if you pick a Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish name, the correlation between the northern plains states/WI/MN and Utah appears pronounced. Try Peterson, Hansen, or Jensen, for example.

  16. john f. on April 17, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    re # 15, see # 14.

  17. Emerson on April 17, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    Cluff +1990 comes close to Romney, and shows evidence of spreading through the Mormon Culture Region.

  18. andrew olsen on April 17, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    I’d like to nominate my own name – Olsen (also scandinavian). Very Utah centric.

  19. norm on April 17, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    here’s a very interesting read on the intersection of Scandinavians in Nebraska: “Mormon influence on Scandinavian settlement in Nebraska” Matteson & Matteson
    http://www.xmission.com/~nelsonb/nebraska.htm

    There, the authors point to census data and journals that suggest large numbers of Danish converts went to Utah, became disaffected (with polygamy, Anglo dominance, and other reasons) and returned to Nebraska, etc. Results for Jensen/Larsen/Hansen corroborate this.

    It looks like three separate settlement areas: 1) the Mormon West 2) The disaffected Mormon Trail areas of Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas and the 3) the MN/WI area later migration.

    The Great Lakes States had huge number of Scandinavian immigrants, although the biggest numbers, as with Washington, trickled in the late 1800s, whereas much of the Danish influx into Deseret/Utah occurred in the 1840s and 1850s

    Scandinavians in the Upper Midwest were most often Norwegian and Swedish, while Utah Scandinavians immigrants, by comparison, were largely Danish.

    new nominees for most Mormon names: Stringham and Staker.

  20. norm on April 17, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    Cottam.

  21. M.E. on April 17, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    Another “-sen” for you: Larsen.
    My surname, which is more concentrated in Utah than anywhere else in the U.S., isn’t to be found in the top 50,000 for any year. Alas.

  22. One who served on April 17, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Try Staheli. One green map in a sea of blue.

  23. Jim F. on April 17, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    How about least Mormon name? Among Anglo and European names, I nominate “Faulconer” (or “Faulkner” if you prefer that variant).

  24. Mark B. on April 17, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Butler. 1880. Before the John Low Butler’s scattered off to wherever, and before my great-great grandparents and family headed to Arizona.

    But Mississippi in 1990? Hmmm.

  25. Ed Johnson on April 17, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    This is very interesting, I hadn’t known that Danes were so predominant among Scandanavian immigrants, relative to their total immigration. Olsen, Hansen, and Jensen all appear strongly in 1920, although not as strongly as Nielsen. Other than a “sen” ending, I’m not sure how to tell which names are Danish, or which ones are most likely to be mormon. For example, “Nielsen” is much more concentrated in Utah than “Neilsen.” (I’m also not really sure if it’s better to use the 1880, 1920, or 1990 numbers.)

    The prize for “Non-scandanavian names” still goes to Romney, although Hatch is close. Speaking of politician’s names, I tried Reid, Bennett, Bangerter, Garn, Moss, Smoot,…none of them show up very strongly.

    Can anyone beat Romney?

  26. bbell on April 17, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    Type in Labrum. This one of my family pioneer names thats really uncommon in the US and only really found in guess where? Utah, Idaho and NV

  27. JA Benson on April 17, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    How about Coltrin; as in Zebedee Coltrin and related lines. It looks like a big bunch went to Idaho. Also Clegg.

  28. DKL on April 17, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    Bad news. Look at the surname Christ. Definitely not a mormon namee.

  29. jimbob on April 17, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    re #16, which re #15: I was re #14 when I wrote #15. You should now re #19. :)

  30. Ed Johnson on April 17, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Clegg, finally a name I can “relate” to. My great-grandmother was a Clegg.

    For uncommon names the map might not be very accurate, since it is based on a 1-in-100 sample from the census. That’s probably be why for these names 1920 and 1990 are sometimes so different.

    I didn’t know there were people in this country named “Christ.”

  31. norm on April 17, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    Winners? Tippetts & Checkets, Thurgood, Hafen, Asay, Cottam, and Staheli all give Romney a run for its/their money. Figuratively speaking, of course. Oh, and Hacking also.

    Non-English Scandinavian winner? so far, Hirschi (Swiss) or Van Orden (Dutch, not Scandinavian, not English).

    Creer and Ashdown are both Utah-only but not as numerous.

    Frandsen, Alder, and Stander are another three heavily Mormon names, that show the Nebraska + Utah trend.

  32. D. Fletcher on April 17, 2006 at 8:14 pm

    Following Fletcher, I see a big group in Florida, and later Utah, but apparently, not anymore.

    :)

  33. norm on April 17, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    Least Mormon name: Definitely Jones. Wow.

  34. Craig S. on April 17, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    Stapley is pretty Utah/colonies centric!

  35. greenfrog on April 17, 2006 at 9:59 pm

    Try these: Zollinger and Roundy

  36. greenfrog on April 17, 2006 at 10:00 pm

    And Humpherys

  37. meems on April 17, 2006 at 11:09 pm

    Osmond (1920) !! All of them in Utah.

  38. Pam W. on April 18, 2006 at 12:02 am

    greenfrog (#36), Humpherys is an unusual spelling — is your family from Star Valley, by chance?

  39. JA Benson on April 18, 2006 at 5:20 am

    What a fun waste of time this is!! Thanks Ed. This is as entertaining as looking at census. Try Huish and Cluff.

  40. JA Benson on April 18, 2006 at 6:00 am

    Summerhays, Bennion, and Schow.

  41. Dan Y. on April 18, 2006 at 6:39 am

    Jeppsen — 1990.

  42. Adam Greenwood on April 18, 2006 at 7:58 am

    Look at Millet, 1990. UT and LA only (Millets were French Huegenot)

  43. greenfrog on April 18, 2006 at 8:20 am

    Pam W: Yes — old southern Idaho polygamist stock. My grandmother on my father’s side.

  44. John Mansfield on April 18, 2006 at 8:37 am

    Ed, Stewart beats Romney in Utah for 1880, 1920 and 1990. The question is whether it is centric enough. Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and North Dakota are red in 1880. Only Utah is dark orange in 1920. Most of the country is green for Stewart, however.

  45. John D. on April 18, 2006 at 9:12 am

    In 1920, Utah has the highest coincidence of “Faust” of any state.

  46. Flying J on April 18, 2006 at 9:14 am

    Cowley +1880 rocks!

  47. John Taber on April 18, 2006 at 10:14 am

    Something I noticed with many names I associate with LDS-ness (or rather, Intermountain LDS-ness), including most of the names on my mother’s side is a tendency for Utah to have the brightest color, but for the color to “bleed” into neighboring states. (Romney is my 3rd great grandmother’s maiden name, but I didn’t actually look at it.)

    That didn’t surprise me much, considering that there exists a clump of counties that is more LDS (or CoC, etc.) than any other denomination, more or less covering Utah and southern Idaho. It is surrounded by a ring where LDS are in second, and that is surrounded by a ring where LDS are in third. The three rings between them cover the western third of the lower 48. That’s a pattern I haven’t seen with my own family history. If Mom’s ancestors left Salt Lake, Utah, or Wasatch counties, they came back before too long; both my grandparents and three of the great-grandparents on that side were born right in Salt Lake. But it does fit my wife’s, brother-in-law’s, and (to a lesser extent) sister-in-law’s lines. It’s certainly present in places like Missoula, Montana where my father grew up (as a non-member).

  48. Tanya Spackman on April 18, 2006 at 10:31 am

    I never thought of Spackman as particularly Mormon, but that map does imply it is. Interesting…

  49. Hans Hansen on April 18, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Just for the record a lot of Norwegian names end in “-sen”. My family came from Vestfold county in Norway and all of their names end in “-sen”.

    Also, a couple years before I met my wife, she was dating a guy named Lars Larsen.

    One of my friends is named Chris Christensen.

    During my mission in Norway there was another elder named Knute Knutesen. We worked together sometimes and got into nearly every house that we tracted by saying, “I’m Hans Hansen and he’s Knute Knutesen. We’re from America!”

    I’m an organist and often thought of getting these guys together to hear me play “Berceuse” by Ole Olsen. Can’t you just imagine Lars Larsen, Chris Christensen, and Knute Knutesen listening to Hans Hansen play a piece by Ole Olsen?

  50. Capt. Obsidian on April 18, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    I’ll have to nominate Thomas. In 1880, a great concentration in ID. My ancestors migrated from Wales to Malad in the 1860′s to join a large Welsh Mormon community in the area. Unfortunately, the name is extremely common and shows up in large concentrations on the east coast and the south. The concentration in ID is definitely related to a large Mormon community.

  51. Jed's brother on April 18, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    Most Mormon surname ever: Kartchner, held by Jed’s sister-in-law.

  52. Capt. Obsidian on April 18, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Did anybody else check Taylor? Also a pretty common name, but the map for 1850 is striking. See also Lund, 1880; Cowley, 1880; Morris, 1880; and Adams (all years).

  53. JKS on April 18, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    I don’t understand why we are going back years and years to find the Mormonist surname. If a name is really Mormon, then the name should grow fast because of early marriage and lots of kids. Why not use today’s years even though the % of Mormons is down?

  54. Carol on April 18, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    Of the ones I looked at Zollinger, Humpherys, Romney, and Udall all stood out in 1990. I add one more unusual Utah-centric name for 1990: Alldredge.

    That was fun, thanks!

  55. EmilyS on April 19, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Summerhays! I win!

  56. Pam W. on April 19, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    Greenfrog: My maternal grandmother was a Humpherys. Moved from Star Valley to southern California as soon as she hit adulthood and stayed. Not a fan of snow!

    I didn’t know there was a polygamist connection — and here I thought my background was polyg-free!

  57. Heidi Ann M on April 25, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    I had a friend in high school whose last name was actually “Mormon,” not “Morman”, but it had the ‘O’ on the end- beat that! Incidentally, she was a Baptist, and not related to any members of the Church.

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