FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: What does it mean that the estimates are "not absolute"?
The list of names from the census bureau isn't complete. Some names are not included in the census data: for privacy reasons, names with few entries are simply not listed. Our site can only be as good as the data provided.
While we don't have exact data on less common names, we can draw some conclusions. Names left off the census data will be less common than any names included in the census data. How much less common really depends on what was entered. If you entered a real name, it may well be near or somewhat below the number given. If you entered a random string of characters, chances are it's closer to zero than the number given. Other than that, we can't really be much more precise.
"I think it's important not to take it as a rejection of you personally." Gabriel Caine -- Diggstown.
Q: What does it mean by "chances are low that someone has this combination of names."?
Even if both names are common enough to make our list, if they are both relatively uncommon names, there may be less than 50% chance* -- sometimes much less than 50% -- that even one person has that name. Since our numbers suggest such a person is unlikely, although possible, we hedge our bets and say that are likely "1 or fewer" individuals with that name.
Q: Does the program really know how many people have the same name as me?
No. The program returns an estimate based on available data. It should be considered a "ballpark figure". It will usually return an answer in the right general area, but the chances of the figure being exactly right are very low.
A full discussion of the accuracy of the program may be found here.
Q: Why do you only include the U.S.?
The data we have comes from the U.S. Census Bureau's 1990 and 2000 censuses. For some reason, they felt it wise to only include data from the United States.
Q: Why don't you use data from a more recent census?
The 1990 census was the last census to include complete name data. The 2000 census didn't include data for first names, and the 2010 census isn't out yet.
Q: Why have the number of people with my name changed?
As part of our constant attempt to keep this site fresh, we've updated our data with recently released last name information from the 2000 Census. In many cases the number of people with a particular name changed fairly significantly. The new data does some very good things for HowManyofMe:
- More last names. The number of last names we have (semi) accurate data for has nearly doubled: from 89,000 to 152,000. This means many more people recieve a better answer than our default "fewer than" answer.
- More recent. This new data is from the 2000 census, and was released in 2008. It's only one year until the next Census begins, but hey, better late than never!
- More precise. The first version of HowManyOfMe was based on some simple data files from the 1990 census. It required a fair amount of massaging and reverse-engineering of the data to get useful information, even then it was fairly rough. This new data includes more information, and is more accurate.
We would like to thank the Census Bureau for their wonderful site and incredibly helpful reports that made this site possible. We're not being in the least bit sarcastic. The American Census Bureau is a wonderful resource, and most countries have nothing nearly as useful (believe us, we've looked).
Q: Why don't you add feature X?
Things are pretty busy here. This site should be considered a work in progress. We have a number of features and enhancements we want to add. We've released the site in its current state because the basic underlying features work. We have a nasty perfectionist streak. If we had waited until everything was "perfect" and every feature was done the site would never have been released.
That said, we always like to hear from people who have ideas for making the site better. If you have an idea, let us know.
Q: Do you share user search data / e-mails with third parties?
The short version: "No."
The somewhat longer version: We don't want your personal information. We collect as little as is feasible, keep it as short a time as possible, and other than in the form of statistics based on all searches don't share it with anyone.
* = Keeping in mind our self-admitted crimes against the fields of probability, statistics, and math in general.