Saturday, November 2, 2013

30 Years At A Time: Analyzing Top Baby Names

Just like fashion is constantly changing, so too are names! Occasionally, very old names will even become new and fresh again many years later!

I thought it would be interesting to see just how names have changed over the years. The data that I used comes in 30-year intervals, starting in 1892 and ending last year in 2012.

1892: Boys
1. John
2. William
3. James
4. George
5. Charles
6. Frank
7. Joseph
8. Robert
9. Harry
10. Henry
11. Edward
12. Thomas
13. Walter
14. Arthur
15. Fred
16. Albert
17. Clarence
18. Roy
19. Willie
20. Samuel
1892: Girls
1. Mary
2. Anna
3. Elizabeth
4. Margaret
5. Ruth
6. Florence
7. Emma
8. Ethel
9. Helen
10. Clara
11. Bertha
12. Minnie
13. Bessie
14. Alice
15. Annie
16. Grace
17. Ida
18. Edna
19. Mabel
20. Lillian

Much like present-day England and Wales, the 1880s in America saw the use of "nickname names" or diminutives of proper names that are used as given names. Examples above include Harry and Willie for boys, Minnie, Bessie and Annie for girls.

The majority of the male names are considered classic or traditional and still see plenty of usage, with the exception of Clarence and Fred which are not currently in the top 1000 anymore.  The female names have some classic choices, some vintage chic choices and some choices that might never come back in style.  Florence, Ethel, Bertha, Minnie, Bessie, Ida and Edna are nowhere near the top 1000 and of those, I cannot see Bertha ever being fashionable again, and I'd be surprised to see Bessie making waves. The others have a shot to rejoin the top 1000 but not all at once.
1922: Boys
1. John
2. Robert
3. William
4. James
5. Charles
6. George
7. Joseph
8. Edward
9. Richard
10. Frank
11. Thomas
12. Donald
13. Harold
14. Paul
15. Walter
16. Raymond
17. Henry
18. Jack
19. Arthur
20. Albert
1922: Girls
1. Mary
2. Dorothy
3. Helen
4. Margaret
5. Ruth
6. Betty
7. Virginia
8. Mildred
9. Elizabeth
10. Frances
11. Doris
12. Anna
13. Evelyn
14. Marie
15. Alice
16. Marjorie
17. Irene
18. Florence
19. Lillian
20. Jean
John and Mary continue to reign while Dorothy suddenly appears at #2. Many of the boys names are similar but the chart has an overall new crop of names on it compared to 1892.  The boy's list is pretty solid and full of classic names that don't waver much; in fact, all of these top 20 boy names are still on the present-day top 1000.

The girl's list feels like the wildcard here. Names like Betty, Mildred, Doris, Marjorie and Jean are new to the list but are not names we hear often in present day. Other choices like Margaret, Ruth, Elizabeth, Anna, Evelyn, Marie, Alice and Lillian are still rather popular today!
1952: Boys
1. James
2. Robert
3. John
4. Michael
5. David
6. William
7. Richard
8. Thomas
9. Charles
10. Gary
11. Steven
12. Joseph
13. Donald
14. Larry
15. Ronald
16. Kenneth
17. Mark
18. Dennis
19. Paul
20. Daniel
1952: Girls
1. Linda
2. Mary
3. Patricia
4. Deborah
5. Susan
6. Barbara
7. Nancy
8. Karen
9. Debra
10. Sandra
11. Kathleen
12. Carol
13. Donna
14. Sharon
15. Brenda
16. Diane
17. Pamela
18. Cynthia
19. Janet
20. Christine
Now things start to really change! 30 years can make such a difference. Mary and John are dethroned, replaced by James and Linda. Dorothy is nowhere to be seen and has been taken over by fresh choices like Patricia and Deborah. Actually, Mary is the only female name to last from 1922 to 1952, even Elizabeth fell.

So many of the boys names seem unshakable but we do see new options like David, Gary, Steven, Larry, Ronald, Kenneth, Mark, Dennis and Daniel.  Interesting to think about how this batch of baby names now belongs on grandparents.
1982: Boys
1. Michael
2. Christopher
3. Matthew
4. Jason
5. David
6. James
7. Joshua
8. John
9. Robert
10. Daniel
11. Joseph
12. Justin
13. Ryan
14. Brian
15. William
16. Jonathan
17. Andrew
18. Brandon
19. Adam
20. Eric  
1982: Girls
1. Jennifer
2. Jessica
3. Amanda
4. Sarah
5. Melissa
6. Nicole
7. Stephanie
8. Elizabeth
9. Crystal
10. Amy
11. Michelle
12. Heather
13. Tiffany
14. Kimberly
15. Rebecca
16. Angela
17. Ashley
18. Amber
19. Christina
20. Erin
The 80's bring about an entirely different set of names.  There are a few boy's names that remain from 30 years earlier like Michael, David, James, John, Daniel, Joseph, and William, but there are no survivors on the girl's side from 1952 to 1982.

Many of you probably have these types of names as the current generation of parents, whether you are brand-new or a bit experienced. I grew up with plenty of classmates with these names. The boy's names feel so traditional to me that I don't have much to say about them and the girls names feel rather dated to this time period, even if a few are classic like Elizabeth and Sarah.
2012: Boys
1. Jacob
2. Mason
3. Ethan
4. Noah
5. William
6. Liam
7. Jayden
8. Michael
9. Alexander
10. Aiden
11. Daniel
12. Matthew
13. Elijah
14. James
15. Anthony
16. Benjamin
17. Joshua
18. Andrew
19. David
20. Joseph  
2012: Girls
1. Sophia
2. Emma
3. Isabella
4. Olivia
5. Ava
6. Emily
7. Abigail
8. Mia
9. Madison
10. Elizabeth
11. Chloe
12. Ella
13. Avery
14. Addison
15. Aubrey
16. Lily
17. Natalie
18. Sofia
19. Charlotte
20. Zoey
These are the names that the 80s kids are now giving to their children. They are much different than the names we were familiar with on our friends as we grew up, and they're not the names of our parents either. There are a few exceptions like Emma, Abigail and Elizabeth for the girls that may have been the names of our grandmothers or even great-grandmothers.

The boys see a few "modern" choices sneak in among the traditional choices. There's Liam, Jayden and Aiden that seem different to me than all the others that are either biblical or very, very old. I am aware that Liam comes from William, but in this case, it's its own name.

In a way, these lists have changed dramatically, and yet, we see some of the same favorites repeat year-after-year. The only two boys names that have lasted the test of time are James and William.  None of the girls names last throughout all 5 lists. Elizabeth is on four of them, and would have been on all five had she not fallen to #22 in 1952. Elizabeth is the only female name to perpetually be in the top 30 since records began in 1880.

While I prefer older names to the modern and trendy choices of today, I think I would choose a name off of the 2012 list before any of the others, except for the oldest one 1892.  Which list is your favorite?

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