Baby Names - Popular Ones Over the Ages

There will be several new babies born the first part of January – New Year Babies – and it is always interesting to see what a child will be named.  We all have ancestors with some very unusual given names that make us stop to think — what were their parents thinking?

I have a set of great grandaunts in one family where the females all had rhyming names.  There was Nannie, Fannie, Jennie, Josie and Susie; all born in the 1850s and 1860s. It had to be the fashionable thing to do then.

That is one of the basic reasons certain given names were given to a baby — it was the popular name of the times. Of course many babies’ names are selected based on the parent’s given names or another relative such as a grandfather, etc.

The United States Social Security Administration certainly sees all the different given names since its creation in the 1930s.  Some of those early applicants for Social Security were born in the 1870s or earlier.  They have a special site about popular baby names.

The top three boy names during 2010 were Jacob, Ethan and Michael.  For girls it was Isabella, Sophia and Emma. Compare that to ten years earlier in 2000, it was Jacob, Michael and Matthew and Emily, Hannah and Madison. In just ten years only two names remained very popular.  Go to 1980 the top three for boys were Michael, Christopher, Jason and for girls it was Jennifer, Amanda and Jessica.  Popular names can be most influenced by celebrities’ or notables‘ names of a time period.

For the baby boomer era in 1950 the top three boys were James, Robert, John and girls were Linda, Mary and Patricia. Note you don’t see those given names hardly on any list in 1980 and only James listed in the top 20 names in 2010.

This Social Security site allows seeing the popular names going back to 1880.  There is a link to plug in a given name to see how popular it was in rank between any period of time going back 140 years. The lower the rank numbers the more popular the name was in the United States. It will also provide other variations in spelling of that given name if there differences. For the given name ‘Allison’ there was five other spellings.

With ancestors from other ethnic lands over the years there are also the different spellings for more typical English names. For example the name ‘William’ is spelled ‘Guillaume’ in French, ‘Guillermo’ in Spanish, it is ‘Boleslaw’ in Polish, ’Vilchem’ in Russian and ‘Guglielmo’ in Italian.

So review about the popular given names of your ancestors.

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dennis 10/01/12

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