Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

I just want to say, "Thank you," to all those who are serving or have served. Happy Veteran's Day!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Belated Saturday Night Fun - Oswalt/Oswald World Surname Distribution

For this Saturday Night Challenge, Randy has challenged other genealogy bloggers to determine the world wide distribution of their surnames, and although I'm late in posting my response, I still wanted to write something before the weekend ends.

For this challenge, I searched for two surnames: Oswalt and Oswald. Why? Well, when doing my research into my Oswalt ancestors, I frequently find their last name spelled both ways (and a few others, as well), and since my last name still gets misspelled, it is not that hard for me to remember. I suspect, but don't have definite proof, that the Oswalt and Oswald surnames have a similar origin. So, to get an idea where the Oswalt/Oswald surname might be distributed around the world, I did two searches. (I do not know how to do save a screen shot, so I'm going to have to present the information verbally.)

When I typed in the results for Oswalt, the countries with the highest distribution were:
  • United States
  • France
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • New Zealand
  • Argentina
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
For the Oswald surname, the countries with the highest distribution results were:
  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Luxembourg
  • Australia
  • United States
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • France
In the United States, the Oswalt surname was distributed the most primarily among these states (i.e., the darkest colored states. Most of the states were a turquoise color) :
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Indiana
  • Arkansas
  • Ohio
In the United States, the Oswald surname was distributed the most primarily among these states:
  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska
Again, like for the Oswalt surname, many of the states in the U. S. were a turquoise color.

I then decided to search for the distribution of each surname in the state of Michigan. For the Oswalt surname, the highest distribution (turquoise colored) of the surname were in these counties in no particular numerical order:
  • Alpena
  • Benzie
  • Calhoun
  • Cheboygan
  • Kalamazoo
  • Monroe
  • St. Joseph
  • Wexford
For the Oswald surname, the highest distribution (dark blue colored) of the surname were in these Michigan counties (again, in alphabetical order):
  • Bay
  • Gratiot
  • Montmorency
Many more counties were colored in a turquoise or green color, especially the highest counties listed for the Oswalt surname.

So, as you can see, the possibility that that the two surnames might have the same origin is possible when one looks at the European countries where the surnames were distributed. Both surnames appear to be distributed similarly as well, and it wouldn't surprise me if there was a common origin. I suspect, though, that there are several Oswalt/Oswald branches in the United States, and that any common origin might be several centuries in the past. Of course, I could be wrong, but only further research will be able to determine if this is case. At the same time, researchers have to be careful not to rely only on one surname distribution map, and there is still the possibility that both surnames have unique origins.

So, what do you think? Any comments or suggestions are welcome. Thanks!