National Records of Scotland

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Most Common Surnames in Birth, Marriage and Death registers

Most Common Surnames in Birth, Marriage and Death registers

Last Updated 20 March 2018

This section provides information on the surnames that occur most often in Scotland’s registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths for various years back to 1975. Available via the links further down this page are a separate list for each of the years concerned, and a Comma Separated Value (CSV) file which contains summary records which cover all the years for which those lists have been produced. Some other information about surnames in Scotland is available from an Occasional Paper which was published in 2003.

Most common surnames – main points 

The main points page describes the surnames which have occurred most often in the registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths, and identifies some of the changes in the top surnames over the years since 1975 and 2000.

Most common surnames – Top Twenties for selected years

This table shows the Top Twenty surnames in the registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths for every fifth year from 1975 to 2015. Max file size 24 Kb.
Top Twenties for selected years (Excel    CSV    PDF)

Background

Each year’s list was prepared by counting the surname of each child in that year’s register of births, the surnames of both parties (for example the bride and the groom) in the register of marriages, and the surname of the deceased in the register of deaths. Different spellings (e.g. McDonald and MacDonald) were counted separately. Surnames which occurred at least ten times (in total) in a year’s registers were included in the that year’s list; surnames which occurred less often in a year are not shown in its list.

The surnames from the birth, marriage and death registers may not be representative of the surnames of the population of Scotland as a whole, as:

(a) they include the surnames of non-residents who were born / married / died here;
(b) they exclude the surnames of residents who were born / married / died elsewhere; and
(c) some age-groups have very low birth, marriage and death rates, whereas others account for most births, marriages and deaths.

Lists of most common surnames in the registers for selected years

The files below have been made available as Excel spreadsheets and can be viewed in CSV or Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF).

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Maximum file size is 331 Kb.

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2017 Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

2016 Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

2015 Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

2014 Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

2013

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

2010

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

2005

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

2000

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

1995

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

1990

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

1985

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

1980

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

1975

Most Common Surnames

(Excel    CSV    PDF)

Note: these lists were produced from the National Records of Scotland’s Vital Events statistical database, which contains records of individual births, marriages and deaths. The lists are available only for a limited range of years because 1974 is the earliest year for which there are records in the statistical database.

CSV file containing summary records which cover each of the years for which lists have been produced

This file contains one record for each combination of ‘year’ and ‘surname’ for which that surname occurred at least ten times (in total) in the birth, marriage and death registers of that year. The fields in the file are as follows:

  • ‘yr’ – the year (e.g. 1975, 2013)
  • ‘surname’
  • ‘Number’ – the total number of occurrences of that surname in that year’s registers (which must be at least 10)
  • ‘rank’ – the rank of that surname in that year’s list, expressed as a simple number. If two or more surnames occurred equally often in a given year, they have exactly the same numerical value here, so this field does not directly identify any surnames which was involved in a tie in rank.
  • ‘Position’ – the rank of the surname in that year’s list, expressed as a character string. If two or more surnames occurred equally often in a given year, this field gives their numerical rank followed by an equals sign (‘=’) and therefore does indicate if a surname was involved in a tie in rank.

The rows are in ascending order of ‘yr’ / ‘rank’ / ‘surname’.

Most Common Surnames - multi-year data (CSV 812 Kb)

Occasional Paper: Surnames in Scotland over the last 140 years

This paper was published in 2003. Please note that some of the information in this paper is on a different basis from that available from the note, table, lists and CSV file which are referred to above.