Your Name and the 99.9 Percent Factor

99_Percent_FactorAfter 10 generations within the Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor clan, your chances of having the family surname are about the same as one of these squares has of being blue

I’m always deeply grateful when one of my many thoughtful cousins somewhere on God’s earth forwards an article or obituary about someone named Minerd, Minard, Miner and Minor. Typically when doing so, they ask if the subject is somehow related. It’s always fun to check the known facts and try to make a connection.

That said, of all the M-M-M-M names sent my way, they represent only less than one half of one percent of all the extended cousins scattered all over the world.

The remaining 99.9 percent have some other name, due to the long term multiplier effect of women changing their names in marriage over 10 generations.

Here’s how the math works. Based on what we know about our population, each married couple, on average, produces a roughly equal number of girls and boys. Let’s assume each boy carries down the family name, and each girl gets married and changes her name (which is no longer a good assumption).

Under this scenario, only 50 percent of your children would carry the family surname. Extending this two generations further, only 25 percent of your grandchildren, and 12.5 percent of your great grandchildren, would bear the name.

Imagine that played out over the span of many generations, starting with the original M-M-M-M pioneers in Western Pennsylvania, Jacob and Maria (Nein) Minerd Sr. Today, our youngest cousins are in the 10th and 11th generation of descendants. Because of the 50 percent naming division in each generation, in proportion to the total population, each cousin’s chances of having some form of the M-M-M name is exceedingly small.

In fact, among the 10th generation of cousins alive today, your chances are about 1 in 1,024, or less than one tenth of one percent (0.09765 percent).

As a result, most cousins don’t even know they belong to this sprawling clan. This is especially true among the female members of female branches whose surnames have changed multiple times over time. In some instances the M-M-M-M name would be of little interest in relation to more recent family names in their branch. If “Minerd” was the maiden name of your great-grandmother’s great-grandmother, then so what?

One of the things I’m most curious about is just how many of us are “out there.” This naming business could help us arrive at a count. In the 1980s and ‘90s, I mapped out known branches name by name on large sheets of flip chart paper, logging some 15,000 cousins and spouses’ names during that time. Then in 2000 when I launched, I stopped counting, even as thousands upon thousands of additional names have been identified.

Using the math equation, if we knew how many of the cousins living today carried the family name, and then made some reverse calculations, I’d bet we’d have a fairly accurate headcount estimate.

What is the “big number?” It could be 40,000 to 50,000 all told among the diaspora. Or more.

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