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What’s the Most Common Last Name in the United States?

If you have a Smith in your family, you have a staggering 81 million records to pore through on Ancestry. Smith has long been the most common surname in both the United States and Great Britain. Each U.S. census lists more and more Smiths, from 274,919 in 1850 to 2,376,206 in 2000. Yet the name is far from generic and has a rich and complicated history.
Surnames began to come about in the Middle Ages, when people were often identified by their trade. Just about every village in Britain had a smith, usually a blacksmith, who made horseshoes, plows, swords, armor, and other needed items. These workers were skilled and had status in the community, which contributed to the name’s wide usage. Some names were once more specific, with people called Combsmith or Smithson, and were later shortened to Smith.


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