By Dan Rankin
My last name, Rankin, is the 8,939th most common surname in the world. Approximately 60,300 people in the world share this surname with me. The meaning of the last name is disputed, but it could have stemmed from some of my ancestors being cousins of someone named Randolph or Reynolds (kin of Ran or Reyn). There are almost 4,700 Rankins in Canada, however it is a more prominent surname in Australia, England and the United States (where 33,820 Rankins live). One in every 455 people in the Cayman Islands (pop. 58,435) have the surname Rankin, making it the nation with the highest density of Rankins in the world – sounds like a fun place. In China on the other hand, where just six Rankins live, it’s more like one in every 273 million. How do I know all this? I typed my last name into the website Forebears.io/surnames and hit search.
Smith? With over 4.2 million Smiths walking around, that’s the 117th most common surname in the world, but it’s the number one most common name in Canada, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England and the United States (where one in 125 people is a Smith). That’s a lot of descendants from metal workers. Singh, a middle name for two of our federal government’s new cabinet ministers, is the sixth most common surname in the world. An astounding 36.97 million people have Singh for a surname, the vast majority hailing from India where one in 35 people are Singhs. But topping them all by a huge amount is Wang. The world is home to 76,546,675 Wangs. 36,946 live in Canada… but over 74 million reside in China where, if you’re playing a baseball game, odds are, someone is named Wang (in China it has a frequency of 1 in 18 people).
Forebears.io offers a host of other resources for those interested in genealogy and family history, such as links to historical databases tracking everything from birth and death records to baptisms and weddings (most of which want you to become a paying member), but by far the most fun, user-friendly and free service they offer is their surname search tool. Check it out, and find out how your surname measures up.