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What’s in your name?

Skills for Life Network

Your surname can tell you a lot about your geographical origins. If your learners have a British surname and are interested in finding out about their ancestors and where their family name comes from, you may like to show them www.spatial-literacy.org a website managed by University College London and partners.

If you go to the Family Names section of the site and click on Surname Profiler, you can search for your surname. You are asked to choose which census you would like to start your search from, 1881 or 1998. The results are displayed in the form of a map that gives the distribution of people with this surname at your chosen census date. You can access more detailed information, such as the top town for your surname, from the ‘geographical location’ link at the top of the map.

Your learners may also be interested in finding out how their family name is classified in the Mosaic system.

The Mosaic system classifies people into 11 groups and 61 sub-groups, and was developed by Professor Richard Webber at University College London. In order to determine which of the 11 groups you fall into, a range of factors are taken into account, including where you live, your family structure, age and type of work. Classification types include: ‘symbols of success’; ‘happy families’; ‘suburban comfort’; ‘welfare borderline’ and ‘grey perspectives’ – a good stimulus for discussion and for developing speaking and listening skills! You will find more information on the Mosaic system on the Spatial Literacy website.

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