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I am researching the histories of a number of Rhode Island families. It would be very useful for me if I had historical data on the distribution of last names in Rhode Island at any point before the Civil War. I could then use this as a baseline to make comparisons against other distributions I've collected data on (e.g. "the Aldrich family is overrepresented in charitable organizations relative to their actual numbers in the population").

Is there anywhere I could get such data? Or even just a raw list of the last names of everyone interviewed in the old Censuses?

Any sort of lead would be enormously helpful. If you know of something like this for another state, I'd still be interested.

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    If you want an every-name census, it looks like your options are to use the 1850 and 1860 Federal Census. The earliest 19th-century state census for Rhode Island is 1865 -- the previous ones are from the 18th century and only have heads of household plus person counts, and are fragmentary as well. – Jan Murphy Mar 5 '15 at 5:01
  • @Jan: Hmm, thank you. Beggars can't be choosers, and I want to get some sense of change across time, so I think I could use all of these. But is there really just a "1850 RI Census" file (etc.) for me to download out there? – two sheds Mar 5 '15 at 5:12
  • More later, but in the meantime, what about this related question: What can be gleaned statistically from Surname occurence in Population? – Jan Murphy Mar 5 '15 at 6:07
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University College London compiled a database which shows the change of distribution of surnames in Britain. This is available from here.

More recently, they have tried to expand this to cover other countries. Obviously, this is a major task and the coverage is patchy. I don't know how well it covers Rhode Island but it may give you a clue.
The worldwide site is The World Names Profiler.

  • The World Names Profiler is pretty fun to play with, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to have historical data. – two sheds Mar 5 '15 at 21:20

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