A surname gives you a sense of identity and helps connect you to your origins. It symbolizes stories of immigration, employment, and inheritance. To help people uncover these rich stories, Ancestry.ca has a free surname search tool that enables Canadians to discover what their name means, where they are from, and some of the top occupations held by people in their family.
This Victoria Day long weekend, May 15 - 18, Ancestry is opening its worldwide database for free. Normally, subscribers to Ancestry.ca have to pay for more searches beyond Canadian borders. The monetary value for this long weekend's free global access is $180. Ancestry always has a 14-day free trial available for its Canadian collections. If you are new to Ancestry, this is a chance for you to tap into the world of surnames to discover more about your family background, with global access.
Our surnames tell a story, and many are part of larger national narratives and historical trends. And while a lot can change throughout history, new research from Ancestry shows that some of Canada's most common surnames have remained unchanged for over 100 years.
With kids at home from school, many parents are looking for educational activities to keep the family entertained. With this in mind, Ancestry has developed a scavenger hunt worksheet that children can fill out to find out more about their family history. They can use the free surname search tool to learn more about their surname and discover information that will help them fill out the worksheet. Maybe they'll even learn a fun fact or two to share at the dinner table!
According to current Canadian telephone directories, Smith is the most common surname across the country today, with 193,143 people holding that family name. According to the 1911 Canadian census on Ancestry.ca, Smith was the most popular name in Canada (with 58,606 ‘Smiths' recorded), followed by Brown (31,459) then McDonald (28,035).
Some Interesting Name Stats
On a provincial level, there has been a similar lack of movement with popular surnames since 1911. In B.C., where many Canadians can trace their heritage back to China, Lee is currently one of the most popular names (second only to Smith, of course!), with 25,346 ‘Lees' recorded. Then in Quebec, the name Tremblay tops the list (95,138 people with the surname) - and astonishingly, all Tremblays can be traced back to one French-Canadian ancestor.
Below are surnames that have been popular for the last hundred years in Canada and some interesting facts about each, including how many Canadians had that surname in 1911, its origin, historical meaning, and top occupations held by a person with that surname.
Smith: 59, 606 people, English, occupational name for a worker in metal, often carpenters and stenographers.
Brown: 31,459, English, Scottish, and Irish, generally a nickname referring to the colour of the hair or complexion; often labourers and stenographers.
McDonald: 28,035, Scottish; Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Dhomhnuill; often miners and teachers
Wilson: 22,424 English, Scottish, and northern Irish; a very common medieval short form of William; often farmers and clerks
Johnson: 21,008, English and Scottish; derived from the personal name John; often carpenters and clerks
Martin: 20,164, English, Scottish, Irish, French, Dutch, German, Czech, Slovak, Spanish, Italian; borne by a famous 4th-century saint, Martin of Tours; often labourers and housekeepers
Tremblay: 11,603, French; from a collective form of Tremble, hence a topographic name for someone who lived near a group of aspen trees; often farmers and teachers
Lee: 7,670, Chinese; variant of Li; often cooks and housekeepers