Directional Surname Frequency

On April 20, 2017 · 9 Comments

I spotted South Street in Manly, Iowa as I wrote Even More Manly Places. Ordinarily that wouldn’t generate much attention. For some reason I found it entertaining to see a South with an east and a west. One could go to East South or West South, although apparently nowhere southeast or southwest. Ditto for North Street, and a similar situation for East Street. Oddly, Manly didn’t seem to have a West Street. I’ve run into similar situations like this in plenty of other places and I always smile. I don’t know why I fixated on it more than usual this time.



I’m sure the street names all came from their geographic alignment throughout town. However, each of those could be surnames too, theoretically although not likely. I went completely down a tangent and started thinking about that possibility anyway, way too much.


Frequency

Fortunately the United States Census Bureau published a file that offered hours, well minutes, of entertainment. Doesn’t everybody love leafing through a table of Frequently Occurring Surnames from the 2010 Census? Then I checked the etymology of directional surnames. They all seemed to relate to ancestors who lived in a particular direction away from a larger town or region. People named West lived to the west. You get the picture.

Frequency variations definitely existed.

  • West seemed particularly popular. It ranked as the 125th most frequent surname in the U.S., with nearly two hundred thousand instances. Variations trailed from there. Westerman ranked 6,620, Westman ranked 11,257 and Western ranked 11,395.
  • Next in popularity, and much farther down the list came North. It ranked 1,766th, with about twenty thousand people. Northern ranked 8,981.
  • East followed in 2,843rd place with about twelve thousand people. However the variation Eastman actually scored higher, ranking 2,162. Easterly trailed with a rank of 12,593
  • South fell at the back of the pack at 3,231, and eleven thousand people. Southern ranked 4,587 and Southward ranked at 23,120. Southward presented a bit of an anomaly. Every other directional surname aligned almost exactly with people who identified as white. By contrast, about a third of the people named Southward identified as African-American.

Then I hoped to find a place for each direction, named for an actual person with that surname rather than its geographic position. I already discussed the wonderful North, South Carolina in North AND South so I set north aside. I didn’t find a South anywhere, although that didn’t surprise me given the frequency of the surname. That left West and East.


More West


Czech Stop, West, TX
Czech Stop, West, TX. Photo by Angie Six on Flickr (cc)

I created a little game around the West surname a few years ago. That reflected its overall popularity. This time I searched for an actual West and I found it in Texas. The name could be confusing. West, Texas (the city) was not the same at West Texas (the region). In fact West, along Interstate 35 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Waco, probably fell a little bit to the east of the West Texas region by most interpretations. Everyone seemed to have a different definition of West Texas. That didn’t help.

According to the City of West,

The Katy Railroad was laid between Hillsboro and Waco in the fall of 1881. The path of the railroad cut through land owned by Thomas West. Czech immigrants came to the area purchasing the rich lands to farm and start a fresh life in the new world. They also opened businesses sharing their European culture. By the 1890’s the Czech businesses flourished in West.

That legacy of Czech immigration still existed in West. Businesses such as the Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery (map) combined both cultures and offered kolaches and barbecue. Kolaches, I learned, were a type of fruit pastry brought to the area by those immigrants. Residents also emphasized their cultural heritage each Labor Day with a Czech polka festival called Westfest.


Easton


Easton Neston east side 21 July 1985
Easton Neston east side on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

I couldn’t find a town of East, however I remembered a town on Maryland’s eastern shore called Easton. Unfortunately the name derived from its position east of St. Michaels. Oh well.

Other Eastons existed. Maybe that offered hope. I pulled a few threads on the history of Easton, Pennsylvania (map) and I found an intriguing if convoluted story. Thomas Penn, son of William Penn who founded Pennsylvania, married Juliana Fermor in 1751. The next year a growing town in Pennsylvania needed a name so Penn suggested Easton. Fermor grew up on an estate owned by her father, the 1st Earl of Pomfret, called Easton Neston in Northampton, England (map). The newly established town in Pennsylvania became Easton, in the newly established county of Northampton. That worked out nicely. Problem solved.

However it created another mystery in my mind. Easton Neston seemed to be a rather unusual name for an estate. Actually, it simply borrowed the name from a local church parish, which in turn borrowed the name from a town that existed there for more than a millennium. The town faded away over time although the parish remained, as did the estate. The only reference to its etymology seemed unreliable although I’ll still provide it: "Easton Neston in Northamptonshire gets its name from Old English Eadstanestun ‘settlement of Eadstan’, a personal name composed of the elements ead ‘prosperity’, ‘riches’ + stan ‘stone’."

It sounded good enough to me.

Even More Ladylike Places

On April 16, 2017 · 3 Comments

Most readers probably anticipated that after slogging through Manly Places, Even More Manly Places, and Ladylike Places, that the next in this series would be Even More Ladylike Places. That seemed absolutely necessary in my mind so I could create symmetry and closure. However I’d written a variation on this theme already with the recently-published Ladysmith. I tried to keep things on the more obscure side this time around, sidestepping better known ladies by design.


Ladies of the Reef


lady elliot island viewed from the west
lady elliot island viewed from the west. Photo by wo de shijie on Flickr (cc)

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef offered a case in point. I noticed a couple of different islands that fit this topic. Lady Musgrave Island (map) took its name from the wife of a colonial administrator, Sir Anthony Musgrave. He served as governor of South Australia 1873–1877 and then of Queensland 1883–1888. From those dates, Lady Musgrave must have been his second wife, Jeanie Lucinda Field. I don’t know how she ended-up in Australia. She was born in New York City.

Another spot along the reef became Lady Elliot Island (map). This one featured a roundabout derivation. Lady Elliot definitely existed although I don’t think she ever set foot in Australia. She married Sir Hugh Elliot, governor of Madras, 1814–1820, then a crown colony on the Indian subcontinent. I’m going to go out on a limb and say she was probably Margaret Jones, his second wife, because his first marriage ended in divorce long before his diplomatic career took off.

However, the name of Lady Elliot Island didn’t come from Lady Elliot directly. It came from the name of a ship. Captain Thomas Stuart, commanding a ship registered in India and named for the lady in question, first spotted the island in 1816. Later, on the return voyage, the ship struck a reef farther up the coast. It sank and everyone died. That dangerous feature also got its name at that time, Lady Elliot Reef (map).


The White Lady of Brandberg


Namibia 2016 (228 of 486)
Namibia 2016. Photo by Joanne Goldby on Flickr (cc)

Namibia’s highest point of elevation occurred at the Königstein (King’s Stone) on Brandberg Mountain. The mountain hid a secret, the renowned White Lady. Indigenous people, probably bushmen and probably living two or more thousand years ago, drew representations of their world in thousands of images. Much of their artwork survived in remote, dry, desolate corners of the Namib Desert (map).

One image in particular caught the imagination of archaeologists and then tourists after its rediscovery in 1918. It showed what appeared to be a shaman in white, in an energetic ritual dance. Researchers noticed its similarity to depictions that came from Egypt and the Mediterranean during a similar time period, although that proved to be coincidental. Nonetheless the White Lady continued to captivate many who gazed upon it. Ironically, later interpretations seemed to demonstrate pretty conclusively that the lady was actually a man.


Lady’s Island Lake


Our Lady's Island
Our Lady's Island. Photo by Emmet & Kathy on Flickr (cc)

A little village in Ireland’s County Wexford got its name, Our Lady’s Island, hundreds of years ago in reverence to the Virgin Mary. As the village explained,

Tradition has always existed that Our Lady’s Island was founded by St Abban, nephew of St Ibar, in the sixth century and its reputation as a place of pilgrimage and of devotion to Our Lady was established by or before the year 600 A.D.

However, I decided to focus on the lake (map) where the little village — now connected to the mainland — grew and prospered. Perhaps not too creatively, it came to be known as Lady’s Island Lake. The lake more properly qualified as a "back-barrier seepage lagoon." Various sources on the Intertubes claimed only one other lake in Ireland fit that same definition. I couldn’t prove it so I’ll just leave it at that.

The lake doesn’t have a natural outlet although water seeps into it from the ocean, creating brackish conditions. It offered a great environment for birds such as Sandwich Terns and Roseate Terns. Occasionally the barrier between sea and lake must be breached.

Breaching of the barrier, which has been carried out since at least the 17th century, is needed to relieve flooding of farmland and also the pilgrimage route around Lady’s Island. The cut is made in Spring when water levels are highest and the water level then falls until the lake becomes tidal for variable lengths of time. The practice has become contentious, however, because water levels sometimes fall too low, allowing predators to cross over the exposed bed of the lake to the important tern nesting sites.

I’m surprised they hadn’t figured out a way to accommodate both the birds and the pilgrims.


Dames



I could look for ladies in other languages, too! Dames seemed reasonable. I probably could have written an entire article on the hundreds of places and features named Notre Dame ("Our Lady," for the Virgin Mary). It might have featured the university in Indiana, the cathedral in Paris or the island in Montréal.

Instead I focused on Dame Marie (map) in Haiti. Twelve Mile Circle included very little Haitian coverage so this offered a rare opportunity for me to add a pushpin to my Complete Index Map. Otherwise I found very little information about Dame Marie. It fell pretty much at the end of the road, about as far west on Haiti as one could travel. Unfortunately Hurricane Matthew damaged it rather extensively in October 2016. Hopefully Dame Marie will recover.

Even More Manly Places

On April 9, 2017 · 0 Comments

I didn’t realize the earlier Manly Places would get much of a reaction. Actually the title did suggest an element of foreshadowing. Everyone in the Twelve Mile Circle audience who thought it should have featured places named Manly, go ahead and take a bow. I intended to link the previous article to this one all along. As often happens however, a couple of savvy readers noticed it before I could write the second part. I figured I might as well start with their suggestions as I took a closer look.


Manly, New South Wales, Australia


Manly Beach
Manly Beach. Photo by Geoff Stearns on Flickr (cc)

Ross Finlayson figured it might involve Manly Beach (map), a few kilometres northeast of Sydney, Australia. That’s where my mind went originally, too! I’d never been to Manly Beach although I visited Sydney a number of years ago and I guess the name must have lodged in my memory from that time. I kept thinking about frequent 12MC commentator "John of Sydney" as I wrote this, too. I bet he’d have some good insight.

Manly Beach hugged the eastern side of the town of Manly and featured some of the best surfing in Australia. Ordinarily I might consider that idle boasting, a little something that every seaside spot along the continent probably claimed. However, Manly’s boast probably mattered more than most. It hosted the Australian Open of Surfing each year. It was also quite accessible. Someone could hop on a ferry at Sydney’s Circular Quay and hit the surf in about a half-hour. From the photo I found online, it looked like it could get quite crowded during the summer though, in this instance during early February.

Apparently the name came from the manly indigenous inhabitants of the area. Captain Arthur Phillip bestowed the title upon this place during his early efforts to colonize Australia in the late Eighteenth century. Allegedly he said, "their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place."


Manly, Iowa, USA


IA_324098
Manly, IA. Photo by Jason Layne on Flickr (cc)

Then reader "zxo" seemed a bit melancholy that I’d not given Manly, Iowa its proper due (map). I’d never heard of this particular Manly although it seemed like a fine suggestion. The place flowed from a surname. How many times have we seen towns in the Midwestern U.S. that were named because of railroads? Add this one to the list too. The City of Manly explained that,

In 1877, the Burlington/Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad (BCR&N) joined the Central of Iowa track with its own track from Plymouth Junction. The site was named Manly Junction after Central of Iowa’s freight agent, J.C. Manly. On October 18, 1898, Manly Junction was incorporated as the Town of Manly, and then in August of 1973, the Town of Manly officially became the "City of Manly" under the State of Iowa’s Home Rule Act.

J.C. Manly probably never did anything else of historical note during his/her life. Nonetheless, if one worked for a railroad in the United States during the Nineteenth century there was a good chance hat a town would be named accordingly. America Fun Fact of the Day said Manly, Iowa Is a Gloriously Named American City in an entertaining if profanity-laden article.

I then examined the surname Manly. A lot of those sketchy heraldry website that try to sell questionable family crests included it. The gist seemed to be that there might be two separate etymologies. One offshoot focused on places named Manly in England. Those derived from Old English words meaning shared woodlands or glades. Others with the name probably derived from the Middle English word mannly, meaning, well, manly.

I should also note that many people on the Intertubes found the geographic proximity between Manly and Fertile quite amusing.


Norman Manley International Airport, Jamaica



One more place probably deserved a mention. Norman Manley International Airport served Kingston, Jamaica (map). A variation of the Manly surname included that extra "e" Maybe that made Manley more manly than Manly. I don’t know. Anyway, Norman Manley got that extra letter passed down to him from his ancestors. His Manly grandfather arrived from Yorkshire and married a freed slave. His roots in Jamaica went way back.

Norman Washington Manley earned his accolades. He served at the forefront of labor and unionization movements starting in the 1930’s. He later led negotiations that resulted in Jamaica’s independence from Britain. Jamaica conferred upon him the Order of National Hero. They also named their second busiest airport after him. Most tourists flew into Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, however Manley also saw a good bit of traffic. I noticed flights to and from various cities in the U.S., the Caribbean, and even Guyana.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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