America is still dominated by people named Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown and Jones. But the Garcias now outnumber the Millers and Davises, and people named Martinez, Hernandez, Lopez, Gonzalez and Perez are on the rise.

Data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau about America's most common surnames reflect the nation's growing Hispanic and Asian populations, even as the top five names - common for white and black families - remain unchanged from the past decade.

The names with the greatest percent change in frequency are mostly Asian, such as: Zhang, Li, Ali, Liu and Khan. Also among the fastest-growing were Hispanic names Vazquez, Bautista and Velazquez.

The data, based on the 2010 Census, doesn't break down common surnames by state. Still, we looked up a few of the more classic Minnesota names to see how they rank nationally. In all cases, there are more people with these names now than in 2000, but they've all dropped in the rankings.

Anderson: More than 780,000 people reported having this name, putting it in 15th place. But that's down from 12th highest a decade ago.

Nelson: About 425,000 people have this name. It's 43rd ranking is down three spots.

Olson: About 164,000 people puts this name at 157th, a big drop from 136th in 2000.

Peterson: About 278,000 people and its rank dropped eight spots to land at 71st most common.


It's quite possible that a name might not show up in here even if you think it should have 100 or more occurrences. Here's why: The Census Bureau collected the names from handwritten 2010 census forms, so it's dependent on people filling out the forms in the first place and putting down their correct names (yes, people spelled their names wrong or didn't include their name). The form asked for the names of each person in the household; of course, it's possible that not all were filled in.

Next, the census bureau used computer scanning software to convert the handwritten names. That process is not perfect. It's common for an "o" to be mistaken for a "c" or an "h" to be converted to a "b", or vice versa. The bureau's methodology notes the extensive lengths they went to edit and verify the data, but it's also easy to see how it would be tough to ensure every person's name made it into this count.

Data Drop is a weekly feature that uses data analysis and visualizations to explain, surprise, inform and entertain readers on topics relevant to Minnesotans. Do you have an idea you'd like us to explore? Contact MaryJo Webster