The Hoosierist: What’s in a Name?

Illustration by Ryan Johnson

Q: HOW COME SO MANY HOOSIERS SEEM TO HAVE THE LAST NAME SMITH?

A: It doesn’t exactly make us feel special to know that the most common of surnames is Indiana’s No. 1. But if blandness loves company, rest assured we’ve got plenty. According to a recent survey by Ancestry.com, Smith is the most common last name not only here, but in 39 other states as well. Its origin is English and Scottish, and it was one of those names that indicated what the person did for a living. Back in the day, it was commonly used by blacksmiths or farriers (a blacksmith who specialized in horseshoes). No, I don’t know why all the blacksmiths and horse whisperers decided to come here en masse. Regardless, at least Indiana’s other top surnames are exotic. Just kidding. Number two is Miller. You guessed it: a worker in a grain mill. Coming in third is Johnson, an English-Norman moniker that—whoa—means son of John.