This article looks in detail at ten rare last names beginning with B.
Each of these surnames only had one hundred bearers in the U.S. in 2010.
I used historic census data to take a look at how rare they had been in the early 19th and late 20th centuries.
As the census data has always given the country of birth, it was interesting to see individuals and families bringing the name into the USA.
When people named Bromage reported their ethnicity in the 2010 census, 92% ticked the box for white and 7% for Hispanic.
However, the only person with the name in 1850 was noted as black.
That means that David Bromage was a free man in Montgomery, Pennsylvania. Before 1850, people who weren’t white were not named in the census.
It wasn’t until the 1870 census (after emancipation) that all African Americans were recorded.
By 1900, the numbers of Bromage in the United States had grown to twenty-seven. Ten were born in England, one in Wales, and one in Ireland.
The origins of the name Bromage can be traced to several places in England. There is a West Bromwich in Staffordshire (central England) and a Little Bromwich in Warwickshire (west midlands).
The meaning comes from two Old English words. The first – brom – refers to broom, which is a small shrub. The second word – wic – means a dairy farm.
The first appearance of Brownsword in the American census is in 1900. Suddenly, thirty people pop up!
Fourteen were born in England. Several families with the name had immigrated in recent years.
The English origins of the name may come from the old word broun that describes something that is polished so bright that it shines.
Early bearers may have been swordsmen or guards.
There were ten people named Bouchier in the United States in 1850.
Eight were a family where the parents had moved from North Carolina to Tennessee.
The other two were a couple who immigrated from France.
By 1900, the numbers in the United States had risen to 84. Many were French Canadian.
The name may be a variant of Bourchier or Boucher. The French meaning refers to a butcher.
Early bearers in France may have worked in the trade of cutting up and selling meat.
In the 2010 census, ninety-five percent of people named Blankumsee were black, while the other five percent ticked the “mixed” box.
The name doesn’t appear in the American census until 1940. The eleven bearers that year were all members of an African American family living in Saint Petersburg, Florida.
The head of the family was Roosevelt Blankumsee who was born in Georgia. His brother Cleveland was living in the same house.
Roosevelt’s wife Fannie was also born in Georgia. But her widowed mother was born in Florida. That may have brought Roosevelt and Cleveland to the state.
There was just one person named Billich in the 1830 census. John lived in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
By 1900, there were sixteen people called Billich of which five were born in Germany. The numbers grew to 45 in 1930.
The American name can have several origins. The German origin is a variant of the name Billig. Early bearers in Germany may have lived in Billig, a place near Cologne.
The origins can also be a variant of Bilic, a Croatian or Serbian name. The meaning there comes from the word for light or fair. Early bearers were likely fair-haired or very fair-skinned.
In the 2010 American census, the name Babwah is held by people of several ethnicities:
- Black: 46%
- Asian or Pacific Islander: 21%
- Mixed: 19%
- White: 9%
But I couldn’t find a single person named Babwah in the available U.S. census archives. That means it probably didn’t arrive into the United States until after 1950.
For example, James Babwah arrived in New York in 1951 on a ship that left the Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago.
The U.S. social security archives also show several other people named Babwah who were born in Trinidad and Tobago.
There were just three people named Baitz in the 1850 census. Two were born in Germany.
The Germanic origins come from a place of the same name in east Germany.
In 2010, the name Beslow was almost 50:50 in terms of black and white name bearers:
- White: 48%
- Black: 47%
The name first appears in the American census in 1860 with one black family in New York.
The husband and wife had moved from South Carolina and had their children in the northern state.
The name Belenski first appears in a United States census in 1880. John Belenski in Illinois was the only bearer. He was born in Poland.
Two of the three bearers in 1900 were born in Austria-Hungary.
There were still under ninety Belenskis in 1940. By now, most people born outside the U.S. had come from Poland or Russia.
There was a handful of people named Bordash in the census before 1900, but there were none recorded that year.
The numbers continued to be up and down over the next decades. For example, there were ninety bearers in 1930 but that number dropped to fifty-five in 1940.
A good proportion had immigrated from countries like: