Twenty, maybe even ten, years ago, one of the easiest questions to answer in America was, "What's the most common last name in the land?"
The answer was "Smith." The "Smith" section was the longest in the alphabetized telephone book by far. An awful lot of the first European settlers in the United States came from England. And there were many, many "Smiths" among them, including a historically famous fellow named John Smith, the leader of Jamestown Colony, the first English settlement in North America. So there have been a lot of Smiths around ever since.
And not just Smiths, but Taylors and Moores and Joneses, too.
Well, the Census Bureau has just completed an analysis of the most common surnames in the nation right now. And the winner is Smith, just like always! There are almost 2.5 million of them in the country.
And "Johnson," "Williams," "Brown" and "Jones" — solid English names all — round out the top five.
But here's the big surprise. Hispanic surnames have broken into the Top Ten. "Garcia," which was 18th in 2000, is now 8th. "Rodriguez," which was 22nd, is 9th. And "Martinez" almost finished 10th. "Wilson" barely beat it out.
"Hernandez" is the 15th-most common name in America. And Lee is 22nd. You may think that's another old English name, but half the "Lees" are Asian — which is another ethnic group whose names are rocketing up the list.
As the New York Times noted in its story on these results, the number of Hispanics living in the United States jumped by 58 percent in the 1990s, and, as the paper puts it, "cracking the list of top ten names suggests just how pervasively the Latino migration has permeated everyday American culture."
There was a time when many American immigrants changed their surnames to English-sounding names, not because they were ashamed of them, but to help them get jobs and blend in. Now, it's evident that at least Hispanics are keeping and proudly using "Garcia," "Rodriguez," "Ruiz" and the like, all across the land.
By the way, "Landphair" is a sturdy English name, Welsh, actually, originally. Sadly, it doesn't even make the top 5,000 most common names in America.
That list of the 5,000 most common current surnames can be found at here http://www.census.gov/genealogy/www/freqnames2k.html