This article looks in detail at ten rare last names beginning with C.
Each of these surnames only had one hundred bearers in the U.S. in 2010.
I used historic census data to review 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.
There were twenty-four people with the surname Carels in the U.S. census in 1850. None had been born outside the country.
They made up a handful of families in New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The number had dropped to seventeen in 1900 but rose to fifty-four by 1950. That’s still such a small number of people that the name was in danger of going extinct.
But we know that it had about doubled by 2010 while still being rare with only one hundred people in the census.
The American name is likely a variant of the Dutch/Flemish name of Karels. The meaning of Karels comes from the old German word for a husband or freeman (karl).
The European variants spread through Europe in part through the influence of the emperor Charlemagne.
There were a mere five people named Cousland in the 1850 census.
One of them was in Kentucky while the other four were part of a single family in Ilinois.
Sometimes the old census records can throw up a surprise. There was a four-year-old girl living in the Cousland household, apparently with a surname of Gray.
Here’s the excerpt:
If you can’t read the faint writing, that line says Lady Jane Gray. Nope, I have no explanation for that.
But back to Cousland. The name has Scottish origins. There is a place called Cousland in Scotland. It’s now a farming area beside woodland.
Early bearers of the name could have hailed from this place.
The majority of people named Clendon in 2010 ticked the box for “American Indian”. This was the ethnicity breakdown that year:
- Native American: 67%
- White: 23%
- Black: 5%
Let’s go back to 1850 when there were about thirty people with the name. Most lived in Georgia.
Those early censuses omitted the non-white populations.
However, when we look at the 1900 census, we see “Indian Territory” well represented as the state of residence.
When the name is of European origin, it goes right back to the Domesday Book. This is England’s earliest land survey in 1085.
The name of Glendon was recorded in Northamptonshire in England.
There was just one person named Corbel in the 1950 census. Nancy Corbel hailed from Ireland and was living in Philadelphia.
The 1900 census throws up a few more birthplaces besides Ireland. Finland, France, and Bohemia are also there. If you’re curious, the region of Bohemia is now the Czech Republic.
The name is likely of Norman origin from the Old French word for a basket.
There were nine people named Clyborne in the 1850 census. They were part of two households in Halifax County, Virginia.
By 1900, there were twenty-seven people with the name. This literally doubled by 1940, and nearly doubled again by 2010.
The name can be a variant of Cliburn, which is a place in Middlesex, England.
The meaning of the placename comes from the old English words for a riverbank (clif) and a stream (burna).
In the 2010 American census, the name Catholic was predominantly African American. This was the breakdown:
- Black: 92%
- Hispanic: 5%
The first census that included all African Americans was in 1870 after emancipation.
The 1870 census had five people named Catholic who were recorded as black. They were living in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia.
By the way, my online census searches gave me results for these names: “Catholic Church” and “French Catholic Church”.
When I took a closer look, it seems that the census takers recorded the organization that owned or occupied some buildings.
Below is an excerpt that shows two organizations listed under the “name” field in that census.
This name is recorded in the census as “Cobbadams” but I think that the published data has dropped the hyphen.
It had the most spread of ethnicities of these rare names in 2010:
- Mixed: 48%
- Asian or Pacific Islander: 32%
- White: 15%
The name first appears in the census archives in 1940.
The sixteen people named Cobb-Adams were born and still living in Hawaii. Two were in Maui, while the rest were in Honolulu.
Several were born after the first federal census in 1900, so I’m not sure why they don’t turn up in the 1920 and 1930 censuses.
Is this one family from which the current one hundred are descended from?
It’s possible that the surname only came into existence through the marriage of a Cobb and an Adams in Hawaii in the late 19th century.
I picked Conyngham for this list because I occasionally have lunch in the Conyngham Arms Hotel in Ireland.
I was surprised to see that this Irish name was so rare in the United States. The Scottish name of Cunningham is far more common.
There were 67 bearers of the surname in the 1850 census. Eleven of these were born in Ireland.
Interestingly, it had dropped to less than half that number in the 1940 census with thirty bearers.
The Irish origins are derived from the Old Irish word for a chief (conn). The descendants of a chief would take the name.
There were twelve people named Concord in the 1900 census. That rose to nineteen by 1940.
The name also belonged to the first ship that carried immigrant families from Germany (Krefeld) to the Americas.
The thirteen Quaker families sailed from Rotterdam to London and on to Philadelphia in 1683.
I wonder if any of the Pennsylvanian Concords in the early census archives had adopted the name of the ship that bore their ancestors.
Copperman seems like a name that should be more common.
We know that many of the early surnames in the world were related to the trade of profession of the bearer.
Shouldn’t there be lots of people of European heritage called…Copperman?
Perhaps the name was overtaken by Cooperman, which has German origins from people who worked with copper.
The 1850 census seems to go with that. Twenty-six of the people with the name of Copperman were born in Germany.
The birthplace of a four-year-old boy was recorded as the Atlantic Ocean. His seven-year-old sister was born in Germany, as was the rest of the family.
The boy must have been born while the family were on the long ship journey to their new country.