Ever wondered where your ancestors met their Valentine? Or maybe where in the country you stand the best chance of meeting Mr Hardy, Mr Beckham, Ms Beckinsale or Ms Brook this Valentine’s Day?
A new website, Named, developed by geographers at UCL, predicts where lovers met (or could potentially meet) using surnames – you could even use it to see if it can correctly guess where you met your Valentine!
The website, which is part of a wider research project funded by the ESRC, invites users to enter two surnames. It then generates a ‘heat map’ of the geographic concentrations of the two names overlaid on top of one another, thus identifying areas where the couple most probably met.
Professor Paul Longley is leading the project.
He said: "The website is a quirky start of our research project which is looking into whether our surnames are linked to our geographical locations – something which has been long perceived. It is known that many names remain surprisingly concentrated in specific parts of the UK, and this project helps us extend our understanding of name geography to combinations of names too when we enter relationships."
The data used for the website comes from the Consumer Data Research Centre.
Professor Longley said the study so far shows that on average surnames have not moved far in distance over the last 700 years.
"Most Anglo Saxon family names came into common usage between the 12th and 14th centuries, and were first coined in particular parts of the country. What is interesting is that most individuals do not move far from their ancestral family homes and so, 700 or more years later, most names can still be associated with particular localities. So if your Valentine’s surname is Rossall, for example, it is still about 40 times more likely that you met him or her in the environs of Blackpool than in Central London.
"This doesn’t work for all names, however. The geography of many popular family names (like Smith or Brown) is much more evenly spread, although even popular names like Jones, Williams or Davies still have strong regional connotations.
"Different patterns hold for names imported from abroad over the last 60 years or so. Many of these names remain concentrated in major cities and towns, although the overall pattern of such names is becoming more dispersed as migrants assimilate into UK society."
He added: "With all the current focus on population migration, it is remarkable to see that most individuals and families stay put throughout the generations. As a consequence it is interesting to reflect that names are still often strong indicators of kinship and regional identity."
Users of the website are invited to feedback to the researchers whether they really are able to predict the locations at which romance blossomed.
Data scientist Oliver O’Brien, who is part of the project team, added: "The maps on our website make predictions based upon geographic patterning, and we are really interested to learn whether we get things right."