Me & My Clones – A Writing Prompt

Thist post has been a long time coming, as I stumbled upon the How Many of Me website a few months back, but haven’t had any ideas of how to use it in the classroom until Steve Dembo wrote about it yesterday, and jogged my memory. Using U.S. census data, you can search for other people with your same first and last names. For example, a search for James Bond yields 1,054 double-o agents running loose around America. How Many of Me will also tell you how many others in the U.S. share just your first name or last name, so you can see how popular, or unpopular, your namesake happens to be. While there are over 117,000 people that share my first name, because of the low occurance of my last name (only 1500), there’s only one person in the country named Ben Rimes; me!
Logo There is
person with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

How is this useful in the classroom you ask? Well, I’m always a sucker for a good writing prompt, so what if you were to ask your students to write a short story using the results of their name? Unfortunately, there’s only 1 of me, but many people will have multiple people with the same name. Imagine what sort of creative writing, or directed research, could come from the knowledge that dozens of people, possibly hundreds, share your same name. Below are just a few examples of writing prompts and genres that you could ask.


  • What large shifts or patterns in immigration have caused there to be so many “Smiths” and “Joneses” (over 1.8 million) in the U.S.?
  • What are the odds that you are related to any one of the individuals listed in your results?


  • Why are there so many clones of you running around the country, and what happened to the mad scientist that created you all?
  • Aliens are plotting to take over the world, but they’ve screwed up and are all using the same identity, only to be caught by Homeland Security during a routine database check.


  • Someone has stolen your name, identity, and your life. Who are they, and why did they do it?


  • Why are you the only person with your name? What makes your name so unique or special?
  • If there are others that share your name, what makes you standout from them?

If you could write a story about all of the “you’s” running around, what story would you tell?


  1. LoL, I love it. Those are some fantastic writing prompts! Makes me want to do some creative writing of my own just for kicks.

  2. Don’t forget the math! I can see some stuff with ratios, graphing etc. as a class and individual. Comparing your school’s name stats vs the whole US, things like that.


  3. Doh! How could I have forgotten about graphing? Comparing the class stats to national stats would be a great idea, and engaging too; I already enjoy checking out who voted with me or against me on National Polls on the “Everyone Votes Channel” on my Wii, so it would only be natural to bring that type of comparison into the classroom.

  4. It is strange how my blog readings meld sometimes. Will Richardson at Weblogg-ed just wrote about unique names and Internet searchability.
    I love the writing prompts!

  5. LOL, what a pleasant little coincidence, thanks Kraemer! Glad to know that my thoughts occasionally intersect with some of the prominent thinkers in education 🙂

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