Phone Directories These now come in a variety of formats – on-line, CD-ROM, and printed. However, the telephone directory, whatever its format, suffers from a major proviso – the increasing number of unlisted telephone numbers. “Although the national average for ex-dir is about 37% the figures do vary enormously between counties, being lowest in northern England and *much* higher in southern England. So for any surname you will get perhaps 80% listed if they live in a northern county, but less than 50% listed in southern counties, especially East/West Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Kent etc. This imbalance in ex-dir status can be significant in surnames with small numbers, but probably less so with the more common surnames.” (John Wynn) The latest online version, PhoneNetUk, is extremely disappointing for our purposes. A regional qualifier is mandatory (under the terms of the licensing authority) , so no national searches are possible. The inclusion of postal codes is erratic, and where they do appear are truncated to the outward code alone. With the CD, national searches are allowable, but only the first 200 hundred entries are displayed (with full postcode). A tweak is possible to derive statistics of a surname by region, if the number of occurrences exceeds 200. A visit to the local library will probably be required to consult the printed telephone directories. Colin Rogers has listed the disadvantages of using printed telephone directories:- They are not issued simultaneously, and therefore cannot provide a national ‘snapshot’, Boundaries between directory areas are not constant with the result that an individual’s entry may be repeated in more than one directory. He adds: “British Telecom has an Archives and Historical Information Centre at 2-4 Temple Avenue, London EC4Y OHL which is open to the public… it holds an almost complete set of telephone directories from 1879 when the first publicly available system was introduced into Great Britain.” Mr Rogers is sceptical about the usefulness of pre-1950 telephone directories for our purposes, the coverage of the population being so small. However, they might be useful as pointers for the study of names of relatively high frequency. Survey of Contemporary Surnames Despite these limitations, a major and significant survey was conducted of the surnames of Britain, using the printed telephone directories 1980-1996. The survey was led by Patrick Hanks and Kate Hardcastle in order to establish those names deemed to be of significance for A Dictionary of Surnames, OUP, 1988. The result was 16,000 surnames with a frequency of more than 20 occurrences in any particular directory. This is a major survey, whose results are important to anyone wishing to compare surname frequencies and distributions, especially between 1881 and today. Of particular use in identifying homophonic surnames that have completely different distributions e.g. Adie and Adey. One Scottish: the other West Midlands. The Survey was commenced in 1980, by the leading lexicographer Patrick Hanks in order to establish a database of names for the Oxford University Press’s Dictionary of Surnames. The work continued until about 1996 with the help of Kate Hardcastle and others until the advent of on-line computer directories made manual extraction uneconomic. The result is an alphabetic list of the 16,000 most frequent surnames of Britain and Ireland, with the areas in which they occur with greatest comparative frequency. Surnames with a frequency of less than four per hundred thousand in any one area were generally not collected, except in London where the threshold was two per hundred thousand. Generally the location of the highest absolute frequency has been left in, even when it is not statistically significant. As a result, London and, to a lesser extent Birmingham, Glasgow and other large cities, are given rather more prominence than other places. Patrick Hanks describes his methodology: What we did was: noted the frequencies for each name in the areas of highest frequency. I subsequently normalized this to allow for differences in directory sizes: the database expresses frequencies both as absolute counts, and also (in brackets) as a frequency per 100,000. We deleted (or did not bother to enter) low-frequency occurrences of names for which we were able to find significantly higher frequencies elsewhere. Most areas of the British Isles are covered. (except for Staffordshire and Blackburn, if I remember rightly.) A fuller description appears in his article in Nomina: Patrick Hanks The present-day distribution of surnames in the British Isles, Nomina, 16, pp79-98. Interestingly, Patrick has gone on to compile a headlist of US family names for the Dictionary of American Family Names. The database being created from the US telephone directory on CD-ROM. A full listing of the distribution of all the names can be found on the Survey of Contemporary Surnames page and a list of the areas surveyed is on the Areas Surveyed page.