Langton surname distribution in the USA - PART 1

By David Langton

25 April 2011

USA Langtons, Langstons and Others I

This article should be of interest to those bearing the following surnames Lanton, Lankton, Laughton, Landon, Lenton, Linton, Laynton, Longton, Lynton, Lankston, Laxton, Langton, Langdon, Langston, Langthorn, Langthorne, Langhorn, Langhorne, Lawton etc. etc. It might be considered reasonable to expect that names with similar size populations in England might end up with roughly similar size populations in the USA. However when we compare the results for the three main variants of the similar names Langton, Langdon and Langston we find startlingly different results. Langton and Langdon both with populations of just under 2,500 in the 1881 British census were already showing very different results by 1880 in the USA. By then the Langdons had over four times as many USA residents as the Langtons. This is possibly explained by higher emigration rates from some English counties than from others. Langton and Langdon have different distribution patterns in England with Langdons coming predominantly from the English southern counties of Devon and Kent. The Langtons by contrast come from the North and Midlands. Even so such a stark contrast is difficult to explain by geographic densities.

Neither of these names is a London name yet by 1881 they had ended up with almost identical proportions of their populations in London, the Langtons having 14% and the Langdons 13%. If the proportion of movement to London is so similar why is the balance of the names in America so utterly different? The distribution patterns in England for Langston and Langton compared to Langdon overlap each other far anghorn, more. Whilst it is true that most of the more numerous Langtons are in the North of England, when considering the South of England the Langtons and Langstons have similar distribution patterns in West London, Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. It is true the Langstons have another population area in Worcestershire, in the English South Midlands where there are few Langtons, but there are more similarities of distribution than differences.

Given this conjunction of distributions the results are amazing. Whereas the Langtons outnumbered the Langstons by 3 to 1 in England by 1881 in the USA the reverse was true, Langstons outnumber the Langtons by 4 to 1, a combined multiple of 12. Time has not rectified this inbalance, the Langstons now outnumber the Langtons by 8 to 1, a combined multiple of 24. How should we account for this variation, it surely cannot be laid at the door of differential emigration as if for every Langton that set sail for America a dozen Langstons leapt aboard a ship, clinging to the stern as the vessel set sail. How can the Langstons with less than a thousand in England in 1881 have almost 20,000 today in the USA? How can the Langtons with nearly 2,500 in the 1881 British census not even match that number today in the USA? It looks like the Langstons have far far too many and the Langtons have too few. As a comparitor the Langdons have almost four times the modern USA population when compared to the British 1881 census. In broad terms we have multiples of 1, 23 and 4. These are very different and very surprising results which suggest some other factor must predominate:

1881 British Census USA 1880 USA Current Langton 2,376 594 2,261 Langston 843 2,852 18,979 Langdon 2,328 2,592 8,723 This variation in population totals is even more stark if we tabulate the modern American surname population as a percentage of the current UK total for the same surname. The results show that Langston is a very forceful name whereas Langton is brittle and subject to disintegration

Langston 1,243%

Landon 1,159%

Linton 375%

Langdon 370%

Laxton 318%*

Lynton 179%

Longton 151%

Langton 65%

Laughton 61%

Lenton 30%

Lanton None in UK

Lankton None in UK

Lankston None in UK

* The Laxton population fell in UK from 1881. This result is therefore artificially high. .

In England the place name Langton is pretty stable but there are exceptions. In the far north east of England Langton becomes Lanton. In the North West Langton becomes Longton and slightly to the south of this in Staffordshire the surname gets pronounced Laynton. In Oxfordshire just north west of London a village formerly called Langton now bears the form Launton. In the South Midlands area of Warwickshire and Northamptonshire the Langton name devolved to Lenton. Lastly in London itself it seems the surname surfaces in different recordings some of which are independent surnames in other parts of the country.

One form is Laughton (independent in Yorkshire area) another Langthorn(e) (also independent in Yorkshire). Some forms of the name hardly occur in the UK, Lankton and Lanton are not UK surnames. It looks evident that in the USA Langton was a name that struggled to hold its own. Most of the poor performing names at the bottom of the table look like Langton variants. To the 594 Langtons of 1880 we must surely be able to add the 147 Lanktons. Lankton is not an independent name in England although it crops up occasionally as a misspelling for Langton including in my own family tree. The same argument can also be made for the 153 Lantons in 1880 where the -g has simply dropped out. Again Lanton is not an English surname although it is an English village that was originally Langton. Other poor performers are Laughton some of whom are likely to be Langtons from North West London.

The 120 Longtons are really Langtons one way or the other. The origin of the variant is probably Lancashire in England where there is a village of Longton which in reality is just a variant of Langton reflecting the local pronunciation. There is no evidence this village gave rise to a surname. If this population doesn't derive directly from Longton village the more likely explanation is that it is just the way people from Lancashire pronounced the Langton surname as Longton. Arguably all these names should be subsumed under Langton. It may mean that if you are a Lanton you originally hail from north east England, if a Longton from Lancashire, if a Laughton or Langthorn then perhaps your forbears were Langtons from London.

Adding Lankton, Lanton , Laughton, Lenton and Longton to the Langton total would almost treble the Langton presence in the 1880 total but still fall short of the Langston stand alone total. Neither Langton nor any of its associated variants perform well in the USA. I believe this splitting of Langton into additional new surnames is part of the explanation but not all of it. For the rest of the explanation we need to look at the top of the table. It is difficult to believe that an English population of 843 in 1881 could be solely responsible for almost 20,000 American Langstons today. Neither is it likely that a base of 565 English Landons could produce almost 10,000 American Landons today. The obvious conclusion is that these names have acted like vacuum cleaners sucking up less stable names. The obvious victim of the Landons would be the Langdons and if that were the case we might continue to expect the Landon name to have made inroads since 1880. The obvious victims of the Langston name are the Langtons and again we would expect further damage since 1880. This is exactly what we do find. Below are the American growth rates for the surnames since 1880: .

Laxton 906%

Langston 665%

Linton 450%

Lenton 418%

Langton 380%

Longton 355%

Landon 330%

Langdon 270%

Lanton 247%

Laughton 227%

Lankton 150%

Lankston 101%

It can be clearly seen that Langston continued to grow faster than Langton and Landon continued to grow faster than Langdon. It is only when we reach the last phase of settlement in the twentieth century, that of California do we see a reversal of proportional growth for the Langstons. The following table is the percentage of residence in California of the total USA population per surname.

Linton 23.4%

Laughton 17.8%

Landon 10.3%

Lenton 10.0%

Langton 9.0%

Langdon 8.3%

Langston 5.9%

This suggests that whatever was the predominant factor pre 20th Century no longer held sway in the twentieth century. In summary, I believe there were three phases in this process. In the earliest period settlement surnames were more consistent with the proportions of those surnames in England. However this early phase was swiftly followed by an era in which there was great surname fluidity. I am guessing that there may have been little recording of names and considerable illiteracy. It looks as if the trend was to drop the -g and harden the middle vowel to -d or more predominantly -st. In other words Langtons became Langstons, Langdons became Landons and Langstons. In fact almost everyone who might do did become Langstons. In some areas the Langston surname seems to have virtually wiped out similar surnames. There was not so much surname drift as a surname avalanche, the Langston surname like a rolling snowball just gathered in its competitors and converted them to Langstons.

If, in doubt, please send in your DNA, you may get an existing or future Langton match. If you are one of those hardy survivors who bear the names associated with Langton then also send in your DNA. Your ancestors heroically resisted the triumphant Langstons, preserving your surname for such a moment as this. Respect applies to the 379 Lantons, the 221 Lanktons, the 948 Laughtons, the 611 Lentons, the 427 Longtons and even the 150 Lankstons, you guys really are endangered species. A second article on this subject will be posted on the website.