Rotary telephoneIn 1990, my last name — the prosaic-in-China but seemingly obscure-in-America “Xu” — was the 10,540th most common name in America. In 2000, my last name had made an incredible leap — it climbed more than 7,000 spots to become the 2,701st most common name in America. What a difference a decade makes! How common is your last name? And has it moved up or down according to the census? Find out in POV’s Last Name Popularity Index!

In 2001, POV aired The Sweetest Sound, filmmaker Alan Berliner‘s meditation on names. For the film’s website, we launched the Last Name Popularity Index, which became our most popular web feature ever. Hundreds of thousands of web visitors have entered their names — and the names of friends, loved ones and acquaintances — into the site, all in a quest to find out exactly where their last names ranked in the pantheon of American last names.

The old version of the Last Name Popularity Index used data from the 1990 census. This time, we’ve included names from the 2000 census as well. So not only can you find out how popular your last name is, you can see whether your it is on an upward or downward trajectory.

Can you guess what the top seven last names in America are? Who were the biggest gainers and losers from 1990 to 2000? Visit the How Common Is Your Last Name page to find out now!

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Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.