"Johnson" is one of the most common surnames in each U.S. state.(Photo by Flickr user Deanna Dykstra via Creative Commons.)
"Johnson" is one of the most common surnames in each U.S. state.(Photo by Flickr user Deanna Dykstra via Creative Commons.)

Smith is the most common last name in the United States, followed by Johnson, Miller, Jones, Williams, and Anderson, according to genealogy company Ancestry.com.

What the most common surnames in the United States have in common is that they all have English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh roots because people from those countries were among the first Europeans to settle in North America.

"Smith" is the most common name in the United Stat
"Smith" is the most common name in the United States. (Photo by Carl Spencer via Creative Commons)

Last names were not commonly used in England until 1066, when population growth made it necessary. Inspirations for a second name, or surname, were generally inspired by the father's name, where a person lived, their occupation, or even a nickname.

The name Smith was likely derived from blacksmiths. For example, over time, "Richard the smith" became simply "Richard Smith." A person named Robertson may well be the descendant of a person once known as "Robert's son," and Mr. Appleby could have lived near an apple orchard or tended to one.

It would not be hard to guess what someone named Tom Carpenter did for a living. Other last names derived from the kind of work people did include Archer, Baker, Brewer, Butcher, Cook, Dyer, Farmer, Judge, Mason, Page, Potter, Taylor and Weaver.

Today, where you live in the United States can determine which name you hear the most. Northwesterners are more likely to meet an Anderson, while on the East Coast people named Brown are more common.

There's much more variety in the American Southwest. Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona have large Latino populations and a variety of names such as Garcia, Hernandez, Martinez, and Chavez.

Restaurant in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter in Calif
Restaurant in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter in California, where "Garcia" is one of the most common names in the state. (Courtesy Flickr user Adam Fagen via Creative Commons.)

Overall, the 50 most common last names in the United States grew in numbers between 2000 and 2010, except for the name of "Hall" which dropped. The surnames that saw the largest jump in volume during that time period are Spanish in origin and include the names Hernandez, Ramirez, and Rodriguez.

The name Nguyen, which can be traced back to a Vietnamese royal dynasty, also saw a large increase, according to 24/7 Wall Street.

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Graphic: Ancestry.com
Graphic: Ancestry.com

The 1978 film "Animal House" renewed interest in fraternities as a key part of the college experience. (Universal Pictures)
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