Cool postcard and genealogy “sweet spot”

The image below is a scan I did of a postcard that I ran across on eBay a couple years ago. I thought it was cool because it had my family name on it–not too often I run across anything with that.

Harrisburg, PA. 1901 Postmark.

Genealogy and the Knisely name

Until I got interested in genealogy a some years ago, I’d  always thought that my family name, Knisely, was uncommon–maybe even rare. It was also pretty frustrating having to spell it every time and having most people get it wrong even then. But once I got started with the genealogy research I discovered that my name is in sort of a “sweet spot” for research.  It turns out that it’s not common but certainly not rare, and if you count the more common spelling variants, it’s pretty easy to find.

The US Census site has some simple spreadsheets available, I’m using the 2000 data here. In that it shows my name at #15,700 out of the over 151,000 surnames in the sheet (which is any surname appearing more than 100 times).  It shows that 1,709 families reported that name–not a lot in all of the US.  Considering the dominance of the top 20 or so names, it’s pretty clear that the name is uncommon, but hardly rare–and both of those turn out to be a good thing for genealogy.

Man reading old book surrounded by more books.I’ve found researching a truly rare name can be extremely frustrating, because there’s not that much information out there and it’s hard to find anyone else who’s also researching that name. That’s the situation with my wife’s family name, Bobbe, which is #80,248 with only 220 reports. But the opposite seems just as bad–there are a couple of Smiths in my ancestry and researching them is equally frustrating to me because I immediately drown in duplicate names.

Anyway, while my name is still going to get spelled wrong everywhere, it does seem to be just about right for the genealogy research.  🙂


About Dick Knisely

Science-guy, engineer, father, grandfather, husband -- yeah, I'm all of those things. I author this blog to share things I care about and you might care about, too. I hope you do and that you'll join in to share things you care about.
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