London mapped by common surnames

James Cheshire (Department of Geography, UCL) produced a series of interactive maps of London that show the relationship of common surnames to different neighbourhoods:

This map shows the 15 most frequent surnames in each Middle Super Output Area (MSOA) across Greater London. The colours represent the origin of the surname (*not necessarily* the person) derived from UCL’s Onomap Classification tool. The surnames have also been scaled by their total frequency in each MSOA.

London Names (via Sociological Images)


  1. It appears that most everyone of English extraction was a metal worker and most everyone of Middle-eastern and Indian extraction was a local leader.

      1. Maybe not. There are stories that when the British (English?) insisted that everyone in Wales take a surname for identification purposes whole villages would adopt the same name simply to confound the authorities.

    1. I think you’ll find the UK was a nation of immigrants long before the US – the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Dalriada Scots and Vikings for a kick-off.

      1. Depending on whom you believe, Homo sapiens may have reached the Americas before they reached Britain.

        1. Which raises the interesting question: do the first people to arrive at a particular place count as immigrants? 
          The story about the very ancient homo sapiens remains in the US is fascinating IMO.
          In the case of Britain, I gather there were repeated colonisations during the last few interglacials but the people all left or died when the ice came south again. 

      1. Just the girls, I’d expect?

        Surname in the sense of “last name”, probably OK. But surname in the sense of “family name” would be a massive stretch for the sole purpose of shoehorning non-Western naming conventions into a Western system…

        I guess it just bugs me; you can probably make out from my name that I’m handicapped in this, without a formal surname!

        1. Even in Europe surnames/family names have different forms and functions in many countries. The UK, Spain, Iceland and Russia all have different conventions.

  2. The division of Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi surnames is quite arbitrary, since a lot of those surnames are just subcontinental Muslim surnames.

  3. This was in an article linked from here a month or so back.

    Banks can use this sort of information to decide where to extend credit.  Because deciding based on areas of the city is legal, unlike deciding based on race.

  4. As many have commented, this does make it look like an immigrant-siege situation.
    I think its impossible that all ethnicities will have the same dispersion of names (and surnames). Those that have low dispersion will get projected more (as I feel is the case here).Then there is also the case about the use of salutary addresses being mistaken as surnames…

  5. The map is one of the more interesting posts on Boing Boing in recent weeks. However, it is not something that could be referred to as thoroughgoing. As for instance in the case of Kelly and Walsh (of course I had to look for it) which are listed as English names in light blue, when obviously they will previously have been of Irish lineages, the map doesn’t accurately reflect which generation of a family name is present, nor which of those are taken names, married or unmarried names, or which of the names are a result of naturalization, change of nationality etc., etc. A time/generationally/diaspora layered map of the same nature might be interesting. One of my worries with this map is it might feed into the worst kind of “nationalist” paranoid prejudices (I’m picturing a slide show, I don’t know why a slide show, but a slide show in a BNP lobby hall) but then, with that kind of mentality, any statistic that can be used to reinforce a distorted projection onto the world, will be.  This is more digital art than science I think. Art and roughly estimated statistics, and I want to see more of them now.

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