Your last name is one of the strongest ties you have to your ancestors.
And while there is a bit of mystery behind the less popular surnames, some last names pop up a lot more often than others.
Using data from Ancestry and Oxford University, NetCredit have combined the fields of onomastics (study of personal names) and statistics to create maps that show the most popular last names in every country around the world.
Surnames were apparently first used in China in 2852 BC to aid the collection of census information. In Western Europe, the use of surnames became more common in the Middle Ages, as population growth required a way to tell people apart.
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Surnames and how they were derived can be split into five categories according to the ancestry research:
- personal description,
- toponymic (from a place name),
- patronymic (from the name of a father or ancestor)
- names signifying patronage
The most common last names in Africa
In South Africa the most common surname is Nkosi. As an Nguni word of origin meaning “king”, “chief“ and ”lord” - it is a common name and surname amongst Nguni people.
The research found that in Africa, most surnames are connected to geographic origin, occupation, lineage or personal characteristics. One surname-type unique to the continent is the praise-name, which expresses character traits or other admirable attributes. Ilunga, for example, is of Bantu origin. It roughly translates to “a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time"and is the most common surname in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Many people in Africa changed their names after gaining independence, but lots of popular surnames across the continent today still reflect the region’s colonial past. For example, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe were both colonies of Portugal and together gained independence in 1975. Hence, the Portuguese name Fernandes is the most common surname in Cape Verde. Lopes, also a Portuguese name, is the most common surname in Sao Tome and Principe.
Muslims constitute around 30% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, which likely explains the Islamic root of many African surnames. In Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt and Sudan, the most common last name is some variation or epithet of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, which also translates to "praiseworthy".