I have an unusual last name. Now, lots of people have last names that are unique, or hard to spell, but I doubt many people have the same claim to fame that my last name has … which is that there’s a 0.000004371% chance of someone in the United States has the same last name as me.
I learned this from the very fun website Forbears, which is a genealogy resources site that includes a very handy surname search. You plug in your last name, and it gives you a meaning (if available), as well as the geographic locations of people with your surname. There are 14 people in the United States with the same last name as me, and 3 people in Israel. There’s no definition, which isn’t surprising given the low occurrence, but that’s still disappointing because no one’s entirely sure what our last name means. In any case, my family constitutes 6 of the 14 in the United States, and I am 90% sure the 3 in Israel are also distant cousins of ours. The other 8 people are, to the best of our knowledge, not related or are very distant cousins.
Funnily enough, we encountered our surname doppelgangers when I was a kid; my dad was at work, and his secretary told him someone with “Shortened version of my brother’s name+our last name” was on the phone, so she assumed it was my brother. It was the middle of the day, and my brother always goes by his full name, not the common nickname associated with it. Also, to the best of all of our knowledge, my then 8-year-old brother was not in Florida, where the caller was from. As it turned out, the individual on the phone worked for the same company as my dad and had seen his name in a newsletter. He was obviously quite surprised to find someone else with the same last name, so he called to figure out if we were related. He was also amused to find out he shared his first and last name with my brother! Anyone good with statistics know the likelihood of that occurring?
I have a perverse sense of pride in knowing how unique my last name is! My grandfather came here after World War II, and it’s entirely possible that our last name’s spelling was Americanized or spelled differently by other relatives who entered the country around the same time, so we might very well be related to some of the alternative spellings of our last name. But you can’t get much more unique than 0.000004% of the country!
If you want to play around with your last name’s demographics, check out Forbear’s surname search!