Saturday, November 23, 2013

GRANT surname distribution

Randy Seaver over at the blog Genea-Musings has an on-going series, Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. I decided to try out tonight's exercise, which is to map out where families with the Grant surname resided In the USA in a few selected census years - 1840, 1880 and 1920. The Surname Distribution Map is located at the link here on Besides the maps, the page also presents some facts about families with the chosen surname.

For my GRANT surname, I learned that -
Grant Name Meaning
English and (especially) Scottish (of Norman origin), and French: nickname from Anglo-Norman French graund, graunt ‘tall’, ‘large’ (Old French grand, grant, from Latin grandis), given either to a person of remarkable size, or else in a relative way to distinguish two bearers of the same personal name, often representatives of different generations within the same family.English and Scottish: from a medieval personal name, probably a survival into Middle English of the Old English byname Granta (see Grantham).Probably a respelling of German Grandt or Grand.
Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press

The Grant surname distribution map for 1840 -
Grant surname distribution in 1840

In 1840, New York and Maine had the highest number of Grant families. My direct descendants were living on both sides of the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border in Bristol County, RI and Bristol County, MA. Some families had moved in the proceeding 20 years to early mill towns in Rhode Island.

The GRANT surname distribution map for 1880 -
Grant surname distribution in 1880
New York and Maine are joined by Massachusetts, and the two southern states of Georgia and South Carolina as having the largest numbers of Grant families in 1880.

The GRANT surname distribution map for 1920 -
Grant surname distribution in 1920
New York, Massachusetts, Georgia and South Carolina have the most Grant families in 1920. Maine has dropped down to the next category size. Notice that the "number of Grant families" color divisions do not stay constant for all three map time periods. There is a large increase in total Grant families in 1880, and a decrease in number in 1920. Randy noticed the same thing in his post for the Seaver surname distribution, and this is counter-intuitive to me. I would think, in general, that the total number of families in a not uncommon surname would increase with time. It is possible, however that both the Seaver and Grant surnames buck that trend. Perhaps the counter does not work the same for both census years??

There are a few other facts about the Grant surname from the same link on Ancestry -

Family origin of the Grant surname in the US -

Ancestry computes the number of Grant families who immigrated to the United States thru New York for the period, 1851 - 1891. These Grant families came after my direct ancestors who were living in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by the mid-17th century.
 Grant immigration information, 1851- 1891
In general, the following chart shows that Grants tended to live as long as the general public for the years tracked by the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), 1940 - 2000. It is interesting how life expectancy slowly increased in the post-war period,  increased steeply after 1960, and leveled off for the next 40 years. Ancestry says "An unusually short lifespan might indicate that your ancestors lived in harsh conditions. A short lifespan might also indicate health problems that were once prevalent in your family." I think there are too many Grant families to detect any meaning from this chart.
Average Life expectancy for persons with the Grant surname

Family Occupations from the 1880 US census data-
Families with the Grant surname are over-represented with respect to the general public in farming occupations in 1880. This is probably due to the many people of the Grant surname in the mostly rural southern states of Georgia and South Carolina, as well as the mostly rural state of Maine. By 1880, most of my Grant ancestors had moved from farming and were working as spinners in the Rhode Island mill towns. has a large index for Civil War soldiers. From its Civil War Service Records index, there were 2845 men with the Grant surname in the Civil War. Twice as many served in the Union Army as the Confederate Army - the numbers were 1881 for the Union and 964 for the Confederates. All of my known Grant ancestor Civil War soldiers were in the Union Army. This is not surprising since they all came from Rhode Island and Massachusetts!

And lastly, Ancestry maintains the message boards on Rootsweb. There are 34 messages on 2347 threads. Some might have been posted by me way back when I first started looking into my family history about the year 2000. Now social media is used much more for querying about ancestors.

All in all, this was an interesting project. I think I need to do it also soon for my maternal  line of Veith. I suspect there will be far fewer individuals with that surname, and possibly more useful information can be gleamed.

Thanks Randy for a fun project!.

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