Like a lot of people, I’ve spent a while today playing with the Surname Profiler website,* looking at how distant relatives are spread around the country, now, and 125 years ago. As I was expecting, in the 19th century my mother’s family was very heavily concentrated in one area:
…because we know from her genealogy research that her father’s ancestors have lived in this village and the neighbouring one for as far back as anyone can trace.
I was also expecting to find that today, we would be spread all over the country, what with modern transport making migration much easier.** However, our own family just demonstrates what the research project proved: in the words of the project leader, “migration is traumatic.” We don’t seem to have moved about much at all:
Of course, that’s for a name that isn’t common anywhere – that site suggests that the majority of people with our name live within our local phonebook area, and that phonebook lists about 30 numbers under it. If you have a more common name, individual family movements won’t show up. Another branch of my mother’s family – still with a fairly obscure name – is from Cornwall. In 1881, almost all of them lived west of Bristol:
Our branch of that family, at the time, lived in Brixton. Not the one in Devon, though, the one at the end of the Victoria line, in a completely blank part of their family map.
* Update, August 22nd 2020: It since seems to have disappeared from the Internet.
** “Nor should we forget the benefit in rural human genetics brought by the railway: with less intermarrying the ‘village idiot’ has disappeared” – David St. John Thomas, The Country Railway, 1976.