Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Number of Names

When I was a kid, I was always skeptical of those "__ Million Served" signs at McDonald's (were they counting hamburgers or customers?). The Ancestry Insider says I should also be skeptical about the name count claims made by online genealogy outfits.

When WorldVitalRecords.com claims "872,278,874 Names in 5,389 Databases," aren't we led to believe these are counts of people names? But WorldVitalRecords.com claims 337,484 names in Lippincott's Gazetteer of the World, 1895. This is a gazetteer! Yeah, yeah; many places are named after people.


The updated PA State Genealogy version of Welfley's 1909 Descendants of George Steele has 20,000 names, about 5,000 of them with the first name Living. Thirty or forty different versions of Welfley are available online updated by people listed on that tree, one of them with more than 50,000 names. Access to all of the duplications of that one family tree could be counted as several million entries.

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