The February issue of National Geographic includes a neat mapped display of surnames across the United States. Titled What’s in a Surname? the map displays which surnames are most common in different regions of the US. The larger the surname appears, the more common it is in that region. For example, in Maine Pelletier is a common surname therefore it appears larger on the map than other surnames do. You can zoom in and out on the map and scroll around to examine the map.
When I saw What’s in a Surname? I immediately thought that it could be useful as part of a lesson on patterns of immigration to the United States. Students could trace the origins of a surname and try identify when people with that surname started immigrating to the US. Students could then research why people with that surname settled where they did.