Saturday, May 14, 2022

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Many Surnames in Your Family Tree Database?

We're looking at information in our family tree programs this week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music here) is to:
1.  Go into your genealogy management program (GMP; either software on your computer or an online family tree) and figure out how to count how many surnames you have in your family tree database.

2.  Tell us which GMP you're using and how you did this task.

3.  Tell us how many surnames are in your database and, if possible, which surname has the most entries.  If this excites you, tell us which surnames are in the top 5!  Or 10!!  Or 20!!!

4.  Write about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, in a status or comment on Facebook, or in a Google Plus Stream post.

NOTE:  If you can't figure out how to do this in your GMP, use the Help button in your program and search for "count surnames", then follow directions.

Let's see how I do.

I am currently using Family Tree Maker 2019.  I couldn't figure out how to find the surnames easily, so I did look under Help.  "Count" got me nowhere.  "Surnames" led me to information about the "Surname Report", which "lists the total number of individuals with a specific surname, the number of males and females with that surname, and the earliest and most recent year a surname appears in your tree."

I remembered that reports are under the "Publish" menu.  It took me a couple of attempts to figure out which submenu the Surname Report fell under — "Person Reports."  I generated a report which was really short and discovered that for some reason the default was for surnames of extended family only.  When I clicked on "All Individuals" it generated a new report that is 51 pages long instead of merely half a page.  I then told it to sort by surname count:  "List the surnames by order of most occurrences in the tree file."

I couln't find how many total surnames are in the report for All Individuals without counting manually, which is kind of annoying.  That doesn't seem to be one of the statistics that FTM provides.  My rough count is 4,868.

I can say that the report shows I have a total of 10,114 individuals in my database, of which 5,144 are male and 4,953 are female.  I added 5,144 and 4,953 and got 10,097, which is a difference of 17 people.  Since one of the variables is to limit the counts only to included individuals ("Only count surnames of individuals who are included in the report."), and that's turned on, I can't explain who these 17 people are.  Maybe they're people for whom I have some sort of information but haven't entered any name?  I would have thought I had way more than 17 people like that in my tree.

Instead of the top 10 or 20, I took a screenshot of my report showing surnames with at least 30 individuals in my database.

One of the names is "Unknown", with 42 occurrences.  I just looked in the database, and yes, I have 42 instances where I have entered "Unknown" as someone's name.

I was not surprised to see that the top three names are Gaunt, Sellers, and Gauntt.  Between them, Gaunt and Gauntt, which are spelling variants of the same name, total 841.  Gantt, much further down the list with 37, is another spelling variation.  That's my paternal grandmother's family, which I've done a fair amount of research on during the past couple of years.  Sellers is 574, not really a close second.

I was kind of surprised to see that the fourth-most common name was Allen, which had 143 individuals.  That's a branch of my Gaunt/Gauntt/Gantt line.

The highest number for a line on my mother's side of the family is Garfinkel, at 45.  That is not an ancestral line but a collateral one.  I have met several cousins from the Garfinkel branch of my family.  The highest number for an ancestral line is Gordon, at 44, but I don't think all of them are from my mother's family.  That family name was originally Gorodetsky, and immigrating family members changed it to Gordon after coming to the United States.  I believe I have some Gordons in my tree who are not connected to the Gorodetskys.

It is amusing to note that several surnames which are extended family have higher counts than the ones from my mother's family.  The most is Fuller, at 104.  The Fullers are one of my aunt's ancestral lines, going back to early upstate New York.

Unlike Randy, I see no need to retype the information that appears quite nicely in my graphic.


  1. It's interesting how different software compiles information. You have more than twice the number of surnames that I have, but I'm hampered by the fact that my dad's tree can only go back to the early 1800s.

    1. I don't have any line on my mother's side back as far as the early 1800's. The earliest date I have on that side is "about 1858", for the births of my great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother. I will probably never be able to verify those birth dates, and the earliest document I will probably find for my great-great-grandfather is from the early 1900's.

  2. I think the advantage of retyping the information is the search engines will find it. They won't find the data in your image. So I did a few of them.

    1. That's a good point. The surnames I discussed will show up, but the rest won't.


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