As America rolled into its 241st year this year, a lot has changed, but some things remain relatively the same.

According to the latest U.S. Census information, the surnames Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, and Jones are the most common in the United States.

No big surprise there.

But, when you narrow the focus a bit more to the regional level, a different story emerges.

The website calculated the difference between the state and national prevalence of each of the top 250 last names nationwide, based on Social Security Administration data. After crunching the numbers, they came up with the most distinctive surnames in each state.

What they found was the results are reflective of each state’s demographic and immigration history:

In New England and Appalachia, Irish and English names dominate (Walsh, Sullivan, Payne). In the Midwest and Mountain States, German and Scandinavian names are common (Jensen, Snyder, Carlson). In California, Florida, and the Southwest, it's Latino names (Lopez, Hernandez, Gonzalez). New York and New Jersey’s Jewish communities also show up (Cohen, Schwartz, Hoffman).

According to their research, the most distinct surname in South Dakota is Larson. That's not a shock when you consider the number of Scandinavian immigrants that settled in what was to become the Mount Rushmore State. Larson literally means 'son of Lars'.

By the way, South Dakota is only state in America where Larson is the most distinctive last name.

The Danish (and sometimes Dutch or German) surname Jensen is the most popular distinctive (if you can call it that) last name in the U.S.. It tops the list in six states (Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon).

Washington is the next most distinctive name, landing at the top in three states (Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina) and Washington D.C.

According to, the five most distinctive last names in South Dakota (with each names distinctive ratio) are:

  1. Larson (7.65)
  2. Hanson (7.43)
  3. Olson (7.26)
  4. Jensen (6.65)
  5. Hansen (4.55)

Nearby, Olson is the most distinctive name in Minnesota and North Dakota, while Hansen is the most distinctive name in Iowa.

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