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.

Ladylike Places

On April 13, 2017 · 2 Comments

The recent Manly Places dealt with U.S. locations that swung wildly towards an overabundance of men. Naturally I also wanted to examine the opposite condition. The inverse of manly seemed as if it should be something like ladylike so that’s what I called the followup article. This one required more effort. Women lived longer than men naturally and the ratios reflected that. Fluctuations didn’t hit the same extremes either.

Women did seem to congregate in larger numbers in major northeastern cities, such as Boston, New York and Washington: "Nine of the 10 metros with the highest ratio of women to men are in the East: Oakland is the only exception." However, fluctuations occurred even within those metropolitan areas. The most women in New York City could be found in the 10021 ZIP Code. In the suburbs of Washington, DC, in Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Maryland specifically, 1.2 women lived alone for every man in a similar situation.

Prisons


Alderson Federal Prison
Alderson Federal Prison. Photo by Aaron Bauer on Flickr (cc)

I found some bad news and some good news about women and prisons. Incarcerated women skewed the populations of lightly populated rural counties and towns just like their male counterparts. However, at least within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, women accounted for only 7% of the inmates. Still, where women’s prisons existed, anomalies could occur. No county had a greater imbalance than Summers County, West Virginia, the home of Federal Prison Camp Alderson. This minimum security facility housed nearly a thousand women (map). That created an imbalance in Summers County of 1.23 women to every man.

Some well-known criminals served time there, too. I remembered Lynette Fromme mostly because of her nickname, "Squeaky." She became a follower of Charles Manson and later tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Her sentence could have kept her confined for the remainder of her life although she earned parole in 2009 after serving 34 years. She spent many of her years at Alderson, helping to skew the population ratio of Summers County except for the couple of days in 1987 when she escaped briefly.

Things really got wacky at the town level. The greatest imbalance occurred in tiny Raoul, Georgia, population 2,500. Four out of five residents were women. There, the Lee Arrendale State Prison of the Georgia Department of Corrections created the anomaly. The largest town on the list of Top 100 cities with the most women, Chowchilla, California made space for two prisons for women. However one of them, Valley State Prison, became a men’s facility in 2012. It will likely drop from the list after the next Census.


Colleges and Universities


Mary Lyon Hall
Mary Lyon Hall. Photo by Mount Holyoke College (cc)

My intuition failed me once again. I figured colleges and universities would skew ratios more than prisons. I didn’t get things completely wrong, though. One of the largest towns to crack the Top 100 list reflected that category. Mount Holyoke College fell within the boundaries of South Hadley, Massachusetts (map). This institution dated to 1837, beginning as the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. It’s 2,500 students comprised a sizable chunk of the town’s population of 17,000; enough to contribute mightily to a favorable ratio of women to men.

A lot of colleges for women either closed or became coeducational institutions as the Twentieth century progressed. About sixty still remained in the United States. That limited the number of chances to dramatically impact populations.


International


Saipan Hyatt Sunset
Saipan Hyatt Sunset. Photo by drufisher on Flickr (cc)

I looked a little beyond the United States this time. Sort of. Wikipedia had a nice list of countries by sex ratio that I consulted. After I sorted the list it showed that the Northern Mariana Islands had the greatest abundance of women. It contained about 1.4 women for every man. Of course the Northern Mariana Islands actually belonged to the United States in a commonwealth arrangement (map), even though it appeared separately on the list.

This anomaly occurred because of legal loopholes and deplorable exploitation of female garment workers brought to the islands primarily from China. The Northern Marianas fell within something of a gray area. Products coming from there could claim that they were "Made in the USA" and avoid tariffs. However, a lot of wage and fair labor laws applicable on the mainland United States did not apply to them. A large garment industry started operating in the Northern Marianas around 1984 to take advantage of the situation. That’s why women so outnumbered men. They toiled in factories twelve or more hours a day without breaks for poverty wages. Once exposed, the U.S. Congress began to pass laws that eventually restricted the loopholes. The last of the factories closed in 2012 and the population of Saipan dropped by nearly a third.

Estonia may top the list after the next Census takes place in the Northern Marianas. I examined the ratios within Estonia by different age categories. It seemed after a quick glance that Estonian men simply began to die in droves once they hit their 60’s.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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