Spatial and Temporal Analyses of Surname Distributions to Estimate Mobility and Changes in Historical Demography: The Example of Savoy (France) from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century

  • Pierre Darlu
  • Guy Brunet
  • Dominique Barbero
Part of the International Studies in Population book series (ISIP, volume 9)


Analysis of the distribution of surnames has been used to describe the structure and movement of populations at various geographical and temporal scales, by taking advantage of (i) the fact that familial transmission of surname is attested, at least since the eighteenth century and (ii) the large geographic diversity of surnames, which makes it possible to recognize their origins. Moreover, a large amount of historical surname data can be easily obtained from parish records, birth registers, notarial deeds, land registries and other sources. Using these different properties of surnames, the degree of stability, replacement, or movement of a population over time can be assessed. However, the handling of such data requires a correct lemmatization and specific modelling, involving exploratory and statistical methods, such as space-time correlation, tree and network representation, logistic regression and a Bayesian approach. Such methods are exemplified here by their application to surname data collected from 26 communes located in Savoy (France), structured in five distinct regions and during four successive periods of 20 to 25 years, from 1710 to 1940. The results of these various methods are briefly compared and interpreted in the light of the historical, sociological and political changes occurring in Savoy during the last three centuries.


Eighteenth Century Recipient Area Past Migration Population Genetic Approach Princes Region 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was granted by the ACI (Action Concertée Incitative #ET0063) from the French Government (Ministère délégué à l’Enseignement supérieur et à la Recherche)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR7206 Eco-anthropologie et ethnobiologie, MNHN-CNRS-Université Denis DiderotParis Cedex 05France
  2. 2.UMR5190-CNRS Laboratoire de Recherches Historique Rhône-AlpesInstitut des Sciences de l’Homme, Université Lyon 2. 14LyonFrance
  3. 3.Société FCA-SIGChampagne-au-Mont-D’orFrance

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