Distributions: A distribution refers to the way things are arranged in a geographic space. The concept can be applied to nearly anything on earth, from animals, to disease infections, climate, and in this case surnames. Patterns: Spatial distributions generally fall into one of two broad categories, random or non random. Geographers are not concerned with random distributions which by definition are caused by chance. On the other hand non random distributions are influenced by factors that impact the distribution resulting in patterns which are of interest to the geographer. Uniform Distributions: Many geographic distributions are uniform in nature. Villages are distributed uniformly across the landscape in order to best serve the population. Larger urban centres will be less frequent but will develop at locations where they are accessible to a regions population. Schools or public services in urban areas tend to be located conveniently for their customers and consequently exhibit spatial uniformity. Clustered Distributions: A clustered distribution is one which is concentrated within a localized area. Examples could range from crime hotspots to disease clusters. Many surnames distributions exhibit this characteristic. The geographer seeks to identify the underlying causal factor(s) that shape the pattern. Distance Decay and the Friction of Distance: Clustered distributions generally exhibit a core where the frequency is highest and which diminishes in intensity as distance from the core increases. In the summer of 1854 an outbreak of Cholera occurred in London England.  At the time the cause of Cholera was not known and competing theories were hotly debated. While sanitation was suspected, the direct link with drinking water was not considered. Dr. John Snow who practised in the area observed that the incidence of Cholera was highest in the area immediately around the Broad Street pump. With increasing distance from the pump the frequency of cholera cases diminished, a classic example of distance decay and the friction of distance. Snow was unable to convince the Board of Health of his theory. In an act of desperation and frustration he had the pump handle removed and shortly thereafter the outbreak subsided. Surnames distributions often express the friction of distance and distance decay.  For example family ties, economic and biological factors, can often lead to the ramification of surnames at specific points. Over time individuals will migrate from their point of origin resulting in the diffusion of a surname. The surname may also drift from it’s point of origin. This can often observed with surnames derived from place names or topographic features. Geographic Persistence: The Hardisty surname is derived from an English place name. From A Dictionary of Surnames (Hanks and Hodges), we learn that Hardisty; is a habitation name from a place in Yorks., in the parish of Fewston. The place name is recorded in 1379 as Hardolfsty, from the Old English personal name Heardwulf (composed of the elements heard hardy, brave, strong + wulf wolf) + Old English stïg path).  In addition to distance decay and the friction of distance, the Hardisty surname demonstrates the tendency of many surnames to remain persistent within the geographic region where they were formed. In Little Timble, Great Timble & the Hamlet of Snowden by William Grainge (1895), we are told that; Hardisty or Hardistie – is one of the family names that appear to have sprung up on the Forest soil, flourished through all the period of recorded time, and is yet remaining in the land”. The themes of distance decay, the friction of distance, and geographic persistence, are recurring themes and are central to understanding the geography of surnames.
© J.H.Mathieson