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802 The Most Common Family Name in America

What this article reveals will change the way you listen to people.


I have discovered that you can learn things you never knew you needed to know simply by listening to what peoplehandshake FREE say. For example, as I strike up conversations with people as I’m out and about, I have discovered what appears to be the most common family name in America. It’s not Smith or Jones or Johnson or Williams. It’s Bytheway. Three times last week I encountered that name. At the park where I run, a fellow I was conversing with interrupted the conversation by saying, “I’m Frank Bytheway.” Two days later at the same park, a fellow said he was John Bytheway. The following Sunday I met Richard Bytheway at church.

I meet people from this family everywhere, but oddly enough none of them appear to have anything to do with their relatives. When I tell them that I met one of their relatives just the other day, they seem perplexed that I would bring them up. Perhaps there are so many of them that it’s impossible to have a close relationship with any of them. It’s also possible that there’s something in the family history that’s really embarrassing.

I’ve also learned that their response to my acknowledgment that I have met many of their relatives tells a lot about them. Usually, I have to remind them of their last name before the synapses in their brain start firing. For example, when I say, “I met one of your relatives, Mark Bytheway just last week,” their whole composure changes. Some look at me like I’m an idiot, but I’m not the one who can’t remember his last name. Others stare blankly into space as if I were speaking in Swahili. Occasionally, I’ll find someone who is concerned for the family and smiles, apparently showing his pleasure in knowing that his relatives are doing well.

Every so often, I get the most gratifying response of all: a huge smile followed by “I can use that.” It’s a strange thing to say, but whatever brings a smile to another human being is worth the effort. I guess these people are either involved with ancestry.com or they’re Mormons. They’re big into that stuff.

Whatever the case, start paying attention to how many Bytheways there are out there. You just might meet one today.


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