[Schplock goes English] Last names in Germany

14. März 2011

This is a (slightly modified) translation of a text I wrote in January on the distribution of last names in Germany. It was requested by Petra and I hope it meets your expectations! My heartfelt thanks go to Robert for proofreading, all remaining errors are of course my own.

During the Christmas holidays I noticed once more how names can shape a region. When I’m travelling south, I realize that I’ve arrived home not only because the Alemannic dialect creeps into people’s speech but also because people are suddenly named Himmelsbach, Göppert and Ohnemus: Names that are, to my ear, deeply rooted in the region.

And sure enough: All of them can be shown to have the highest frequency in “my” or one of the neighboring districts (“Landkreise”). I then discovered an excellent strategy to find more of these last names: I scrolled through the facebook friends of my relatives. (And I got lots of ideas doing that – you could analyze public facebook profiles that specify the place of residence in order to created a city’s “name profile”. You could put more weight on names of high school students, because they tend to live were they were born. Major cities would have to be ignored because people move a lot, etc. However that research strategy might border on illegality and would set a rather bad example concerning privacy.)

So, what to do if you suspect that a last name is typical for a certain region? How can you localize it? Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »