Name Frequency of U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents

Monday was Presidents’ Day, and today (February 22) is George Washington’s birthday.  This has me pondering – what are the most common presidential names? 

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George Washington

Here is a list of U.S. presidents’ and vice presidents’ names by frequency!  I’ve organized them into two categories: official and birth names.  The ‘official’ list tallies the names we know them by; for example, Bill Clinton is officially counted as Bill.  On the other hand, Clinton is tallied as William under the list of birth names.

Official names:

  • James (x5)
  • John (x4)
  • George (x3)
  • William (x3)
  • Andrew (x2)
  • Franklin (x2)
  • Abraham
  • Barack
  • Benjamin
  • Bill
  • Calvin
  • Chester
  • Donald
  • Dwight
  • Gerald
  • Grover
  • Harry
  • Herbert
  • Jimmy
  • Lyndon
  • Martin
  • Millard
  • Richard
  • Ronald
  • Rutherford
  • Theodore
  • Thomas
  • Ulysses
  • Warren
  • Woodrow
  • Zachary

If we switch to birth names, the presidential list looks like:

  • James (x6) – including Jimmy Carter
  • John (x5) – including John Calvin Coolidge
  • William (x4) – including Bill Clinton
  • George (x3)
  • Andrew (x2)
  • Franklin (x2)
  • Thomas (x2) – including Thomas Woodrow Wilson
  • Abraham
  • Barack
  • Benjamin
  • Chester
  • Donald
  • Dwight
  • Harry
  • Herbert
  • Hiram – Hiram Ulysses Grant
  • Leslie – birth name of Gerald Ford, who was originally named after his biological father.  Gerald Ford was his stepfather’s name.
  • Lyndon
  • Maarten – Martin Van Buren’s first language was Dutch
  • Millard
  • Richard
  • Ronald
  • Rutherford
  • Stephen – Stephen Grover Cleveland
  • Theodore
  • Warren
  • Zachary

Now here are the Vice-Presidents’ official names:

  • John (x5)
  • Charles (x3)
  • George (x3)
  • Thomas (x3)
  • Henry (x2)
  • Richard (x2)
  • William (x2)
  • Aaron
  • Adlai
  • Al
  • Alben
  • Andrew
  • Calvin
  • Chester
  • Dan
  • Daniel
  • Dick
  • Elbridge
  • Garret
  • Gerald
  • Hannibal
  • Harry
  • Hubert
  • James
  • Joe
  • Levi
  • Lyndon
  • Martin
  • Mike
  • Millard
  • Nelson
  • Schuyler
  • Spiro
  • Theodore
  • Walter

And their birth names:

  • John (x6) – including Calvin Coolidge
  • Charles (x3)
  • George (x3)
  • Richard (x3) – including Dick Cheney
  • Thomas (x3)
  • James (x2) – including James Danforth “Dan” Quayle
  • William (x2)
  • Aaron
  • Adlai
  • Alben
  • Albert – Al Gore
  • Andrew
  • Chester
  • Daniel
  • Elbridge
  • Garret
  • Hannibal
  • Harry
  • Henry
  • Hubert
  • Jeremiah – Jeremiah Jones Colbath changed his name to Henry Wilson.
  • Joseph – Joe Biden
  • Leslie
  • Levi
  • Lyndon
  • Maarten
  • Michael – Mike Pence
  • Millard
  • Nelson
  • Schuyler
  • Spiro
  • Theodore
  • Walter

Thoughts?  I’m honestly a little surprised that there’s been more than one president named Franklin.  That, and I think Hannibal Hamlin wins “coolest name.”

Lyman

Many of the most popular ‘L’ names for boys are surnames – Landon, Lincoln, Logan, etc.  Noticeably, they also end in the letter ‘n.’  So how about Lyman?

Lyman is an unusual baby name from early America.  Despite lukewarm popularity, this name managed to stay in the top 1000 until the 1960s.  It was never trendy, but steady.  Just 16 boys were named Lyman in 2016, though that’s more than double the number of Lyman‘s born even five years ago!

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L. Frank Baum’s first name was Lyman

The most famous namesakes:

  • Lyman Hall (1724-1790): signer of Declaration of Independence
  • Lyman Beecher (1775-1863): minister, American Temperance Union co-founder, and father of many famous children including Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Lyman was his mother’s maiden name.
  • Lyman Trumbull (1813-1896); co-wrote the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery
  • Lyman Gage (1836-1927): United States Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt
  • Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919): author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Josh Lyman: character on The West Wing.

Lyman is clearly a name with precedent.  So where is he now?

The lack of modern trendiness might be attributed to an association with another name.  Nameberry’s description says Lyman is “almost as passé as Hyman.”  Hmm…I’m not sure I agree with that statement.  We usually don’t discourage people from calling their sons Nick just because it rhymes with Dick, an old-fashioned name that – like Hyman – has taken on a sexual, usually negative connotation and headed for extinction.  Yes, Lyman happens to rhyme with “hymen,” but you’re probably only realizing that now that I’ve pointed it out.  Personally, I never made the connection until I saw Nameberry’s bit.  More interestingly, they don’t say anything about the name Wyman, which is also in use (though still rarer than Lyman).

Does Lyman sound too much like the word “hymen?”  Is Lyman still usable, and could he make a comeback?  I personally think Lyman is fine, but I’d like to hear y’all’s opinions.

Interesting Names from Bruton Parish

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The belltower/entrance to Bruton Parish Church.  A few decades younger than the rest of the building, but still constructed in the 1700s

I’ve just returned from a short vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia.  While there, I went name-hunting at the Episcopal church!  Bruton Parish Church was built in 1715, replacing an even earlier church (only visible at the foundations) that existed just feet away.  The cemetery has been around since the late 1600s, making it perfect for anyone looking for historical (or unusual) names!

Unfortunately, the graves aren’t all still legible.  Weather, age, and other factors have worn down or broken many of the oldest stones.  The church understandably prioritizes preservation and has cordoned off large sections of the graveyard; you need to ask a guide for permission to enter those parts.  In more public areas close to the church doors (it’s still an active congregation; they hold services daily!), they’ve juxtaposed wooden benches around fragile upright stones to keep them from falling over.  Occasionally they also bring the most ancient markers (think 1690s) inside for even better protection.

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The wall surrounding (and protecting) the church and graveyard

Despite these challenges, I still managed to record a lot of names!  Some I found walking through more open areas, others through a book called A Guide to the Memorials of Bruton Parish Church.  Unfortunately it’s out of print, but the lovely ladies in the parish shop (thank you!) let me use their store copy to record the strangest names I could find!  One day, I hope to acquire my own copy so I can conduct a more thorough analysis. 

The names that seemed to appear the most (i.e., the most popular, if you will) were Henry, John, Frances, etc.  I saw surprisingly few Mary‘s, but that might be because those graves have faded or broken…that, and I was short on time.

One last note before I continue on to the names – I don’t think everyone mentioned in the cemetery or church is actually buried there; sometimes the markers serve as memorials or genealogical references.  Regardless, name-spotting is name-spotting.  If I see it, and it’s interesting, I list it!

Names:

  • Reuben – Early 19th century.
  • St. George – Yes, that’s really his name.  I wonder if how it was pronounced, since the name St. John is said like “Sinjin.”  “Sin-George,” maybe?
  • Nathaniel BeverleyBeverley is his middle name.
  • Lauretta Anne – married to a Thomas Lyttleton
  • Thomas Lyttleton (2x; father and son) –  Lyttleton is their middle name.
  • Letitia (2x; daughter and mother) – Bonus points: Letitiathe-Younger was the daughter of U.S. President John Tyler! As of 2016/7, the name Letitia no longer appears in extended SSA birth data.  However, 148 girls were named Leticia last year.
  • Archer – I think he was born in the 1600s.  Definitely one of the earlier mentions
  • Sydney (male)
  • Delia Adalaide* (early-to-mid 1800s)
  • Josiah Nelson* (born and died 1836)
  • Richard Maning*
  • Horatio Nelson* (born 1840s, died 1850s) – Josiah Nelson and Richard Maning were his older brothers; Delia Adalaide was their mother.  All three boys died as children.
  • Goodrich
  • Altazera – Goodrich’s daughter.  Google turns up just a few other people with the name, and sometimes it’s rendered Alta Zera.  Another version, Altazerah, appears once in the Social Security Death Index; SSDI also turns up quite a few women named Alta Z. or Zera A, along with an Aldesira (is that even related?)  Finally, I found mention of an English Rhoda Altazera born in 1864, via the amazing British Baby Names!
  • Annabelle
  • Coleman Charles
  • Truxtun or Truxton – born in the 1850s, died in the 1930s.  I think I saw both spellings for the same person.  This name occasionally pops up today – 6 boys were named Truxton last year, and apparently there were a few in the 1910s (possibly) due to a book.  Just accounting for first names, SSDI also counts 5 Truxtuns and over 80 Truxtons, mostly born in the early 20th century (but some older).  Others bore Truxtun/Truxton as a middle.
  • Mordecai Talbot
  • Singleton Peabody
  • Dabney – 6 girls in 2016.  This Dabney was probably male, though. 
  • Archibald
  • Dudley
  • Gideon
  • Horace John
  • Anne Contesse – sister of President John Tyler.  I’ve heard of women named Contessa, but never Contesse.  Hmm…
  • Louisianna 
  • Blair
  • Christo – 7 boys in 2016
  • Susan Comfort – Can’t tell if Comfort is her maiden or middle name
  • Blumfield
  • Norborne – as in, Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt (18th century)
  • Ellsworth
  • Rowland
  • Orlando – the grandfather of Martha Washington
  • Beverley Dandridge – Might be the son of the Nathaniel Beverley listed above.  Remember: Beverly used to be a boys’ name!  To be fair, I think Beverley was a family surname.
  • Lion Tyler – fought in WWII.  Considering that John Tyler had both a son *and* grandson named Lyon Gardiner Tyler, I’m inclined to believe this Lion Tyler is somehow related.  Otherwise, I can see how Lion might be a nickname for Lionel.
  • Byam Kerby
  • Ebenezer – Byam’s grandfather
  • Cotesworth (late 19th century?)
  • Jacquelin – What makes this interesting is that unless the church had a female rector before 1900 (unlikely), this Jacquelin was a man!
  • Armistead

Thoughts?  Do you like these names?  Do you ever ponder about the names in cemeteries, or names from earlier centuries?  Personally, I can’t wait to embark on my next name safari!  

P.S. Does anyone else know anything about the name Altazera

Source:

Godson, Susan H., ed.  A Guide to the Memorials of Bruton Parish Church. Williamsburg: Bruton Parish Church, 2006. 

Odo

With the increasing popularity of Otto in the U.S. (currently ranked #527), will some parents start choosing Odo for their baby’s name?  The two names are related (deriving from a Germanic word meaning “wealth” or “fortune,” though Odo is pronounced more like Oh-doe than Ought-o or Odd-o.  A relative’s Star Trek binge-watching planted this obscure name in my mind.  To me, Odo evokes images of handsome medieval knights and polite, stern space aliens.

Odo has never appeared in the Social Security Administration‘s extended name data.  In order for that to happen, a name has to be given to at least five same-gendered babies in a year.  Thankfully, the SSA’s “Popular Baby Names” isn’t the only database available to search for baby name histories.  You can also glance at the Social Security Death Index* for clues.  The SSDI is especially useful for researching names in the late 19th century and early 20th century, because it doesn’t seem to have minimal popularity restrictions (which are in place for the birth data to protect the privacy of presumably living citizens).  Also, sometimes if you see a “popular” 19th century name in the birth data, you’ll find a higher number of them in the death data.  No idea why *that* is, but it is another reason why the SSDI is such a valuable tool.  Finally, you can sometimes see the names of people born before 1880 in the death index; the birth index starts at 1880.

While I never found Odo in the birth data, I did find over sixty Odo‘s in the death index.  The earliest two were born in 1874 (in Wisconsin and Texas), and the last in 1946 (South Carolina).  The youngest was probably the son of another Odo who was born in 1915 in the same SC town; overall, the last Odo born before the youngest (that has died, anyway) was born in 1938.  According to the death index, no more than three Odo‘s were born each year nationally.  While there might be a handful still living, this paucity suggests the possibility that Odo never reached SSA’s minimal popularity threshold of 5 uses even accounting for incomplete/inaccurate name info before 1937.  The other possibility is that even if five Odo‘s were born in a single year after 1879, at least two weren’t recorded because they died early or worked in the wrong employment sector.

Despite Odo‘s status as an extremely rare name in 21st century America, it isn’t exactly obscure.  Nowadays, Odo mostly appears in pop culture and video games.  The book Fellowship of the Ring mentions a minor character named Odo Proudfoot, who is a cousin to Bilbo Baggins.  An Odo is also referenced in Harry Potter through song.  Star Trek’s Odo is probably better known than the examples above, though.  In Deep Space Nine, Odo is the station’s shape-shifting, Quark-hating security guard.  That Odo is a major character, and I’m honestly surprised the name didn’t breach the extended data at least once during the show’s run in the 1990s.  Odo isn’t exactly a sci-fi creation; it’s a historical name!

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From left: Bishop Odo, King William, and their brother Robert

Did I mention history?  Famous early bearers include King Odo of France (also known as Eudes) and Saint Odo of Cluny.  William the Conqueror also had a maternal half-brother named Odo who was Earl of Kent and Bishop of Bayeux.  If you’ve ever played “Crusader Kings II” as I have, you may have interacted with this character (whose surname is “de Conteville”).  In real life, he wasn’t the only Odo in England.  The 1086 Domesday Book records several individuals named Odo and even one Odolina.

What do you think of Odo?  Is it too weird or pretentious for modern usage, or is it like a book just waiting to be dusted off and read?  Would *you* use it?  Let me know in the comments! 

*If you’d like to access the SSDI and don’t have a subscription to Ancestry.com, you can do as I did and go on Family Search, which offers it for free. 

 

Battles as Baby Names: American Revolution Edition

Today is July 4th!  We celebrate today as the day that we officially declared our independence from an oppressive colonizer three-thousand miles across the sea.  Today was the day we said enough is enough, taunted the Mad King with our John Hancocks (literally), and set the theme for a Nicolas Cage movie in which Sean Bean doesn’t die!

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Declaration of Independence copy.

For all the power of words, we must remember that ideas only stick when we’re willing to fight for them.  The American Revolutionary War had already begun when the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed.  If we’d lost the war, would this treasured document hold any significance?  Today, we don’t just remember the words.  We remember that people died to ensure those words held meaning.

With this in mind, I decided to write a different sort of 4th of July post.  Last year, I wrote about interesting names among the Signers and American virtues.  For Independence Day 2017, I’ve looked to Revolutionary War battles for patriotic baby name inspiration!

You might be asking: are battle names even a thing?  The answer: Yes!  Gettysburg and Manila (Spanish-American War) are two examples of battles that translated to people’s names in the U.S.  Lorraine also counts as a battle name, though the name’s popularity jumped at the end of World War I (the Battle of Lorraine happened in 1914, before the U.S. entered that conflict).  Battle baby names are a rare and obscure topic in the 21st century, but 100+ years ago this was just another form of patriotic baby naming.

Here is a selection of Revolutionary War battle names and could-be names!

  • Lexington – Battles of Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts), April 19 1775.  77 girls and 46 boys were named Lexington in 2016.  Lexi and Lex are possible nicknames.
  • Ticonderoga – Capture of Fort Ticonderoga (New York), May 10 1775; Siege of Fort Ticonderoga (July 2-6 1777).  With a nickname like Connie or Derry, Ticonderoga comes across as strong as Boudicca!
  • ChelseaThe Battle of Chelsea Creek (Massachusetts), May 27-May 28 1775.  Chelsea ranks #353 out of 1000 in the U.S.; approximately 928 girls were given the name in 2016.  
  • Lindley – Battle of Lindley’s Fort (South Carolina), July 15 1776; Battle of Lindley’s Mill (North Carolina), Sep. 13 1781; 30 girls were named Lindley in 2016. 
  • Harlem – Battle of Harlem Heights (New York), Sept. 16 1776.  A unisex place, battle, and dance name, this was given to 183 boys and 93 girls in 2016.  Harlem barely missed the cut for the top 1000 boys’ list in 2015 when it peaked at 201 uses.  Its popularity among baby girls continues to increase. 
  • Trenton – Battle of Trenton (New Jersey), Dec. 26 1776; 2nd Battle of Trenton, Jan. 2 1777.  As a baby name, Trenton is falling fast.  He peaked at #178 in 2006, and now ranks at #389 (with approx. 815 boys). 
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“Washington Crossing the Delaware,” Emanuel Leutze (1851)

  • Princeton – Battle of Princeton (New Jersey), Jan. 3 1777.  The university predates the battle by a few decades, but the name’s only been popular since 2011!  769 boys were named Princeton in 2016, ranking him at #413.  This name is still rising, though his acceleration appears to dim. 
  • Ridgefield – Battle of Ridgefield (Connecticut), April 27 1777.   We lost this battle, but a history buff could make this work with the nickname “Ridge.”
  • Bennington – Battle of Bennington (New York), Aug. 16 1777.  “Ben” for short?
  • Brandywine – Battle of Brandywine (Pennsylvania), Sep. 11 1777.  Although this was a British victory, I’d like to suggest Brandywine as a name (I’ve always thought it sounded pretty).  “Brandi” for short?
  • Saratoga – Battles of Saratoga (New York), Sept. 19 and Oct. 7 1777.  Call her Sara for short! 
  • Beaufort – Battle of Beaufort (South Carolina), Feb. 3 1779.  Funnily enough, the last time Beaufort made an appearance in the SSA birth data was 1976.  Beau makes for a strong nickname, but Biff might be problematic.
  • Paulus – Battle of Paulus Hook (New Jersey), Aug. 19 1779.  According to Behind the Name, Paulus is the Latin form of PaulPaul has always been the more common version by far; Paulus has only ever appeared three or four times in the SSA birth data.  The last time was 1987.
  • Camden – Battle of Camden (South Carolina), Aug. 16 1780.  Camden ranks #124 in the U.S., down from a peak of #99 in 2013.  Approximately 156 girls were named Camden in 2016 in addition to the 3,300-some boys who were, but don’t call it unisex just yet!  Hardly 5% of all Camden‘s born last year were girls.
  • King – Battle of Kings Mountain (South Carolina), Oct. 7 1780.  King ranks #152 in the U.S.  I have to say, this makes for the most ironically patriotic name on this list.  We won that battle, though!
  • Augusta – Siege of Augusta (Georgia), May 22 – June 6 1781.  25 girls and 7 boys were named Augusta in 2016. 
  • York – Siege of Yorktown (Virginia), Sep. 28 – Oct. 19 1781.  12 boys were named York in 2016.

I also gave some thought to Bunker and Cowpens, but I think they’re bad ideas for baby names.  Bunker Hill was an important battle, but the name Bunker makes me think of Archie Bunker (bigoted TV character from the 1970s) and Enver Hoxha (the Albanian dictator who littered his tiny country with thousands of bunkers).  As for Cowpens…moo?

Do you like the idea of battle names, or do you prefer a different kind of patriotic baby naming (i.e., virtues)?  If you like the battle names, which would you use?  Are there any you think I should add to this list?  Let me know in the comments!

Most importantly, happy birthday America!

Names and Doctor Strange

I just saw Doctor Strange!  There’s something so fantastic about Benedict Cumberbatch acting in a Marvel film.  Imagine Dr. House + Inception, and you have this movie. Maybe Cumberbatch is turning into a character actor for the “eccentric/misunderstood/rude genius” trope, but I for one can’t get enough of Sherlock Holmes-types.

Speaking of Cumberbatch…I relish the fact that there are two (!) actors named Benedict in this movie!  The other was Benedict Wong, who ironically played Wong…eponymous, much?  Benedict is a fairly rare name in the U.S.  Already ranking in England and Wales at #341, it’s not yet a top 1000 name on this side of the pond.  Still, Mr. Cumberbatch inspires an American rise in popularity.  151 boys were named Benedict in 2015, up from 137 in 2014 and 108 in 2013.  There was another usage spike about 10 years ago, probably from the accession of Benedict XVI to the papacy.  Otherwise, Americans encounter the obstacle of the Benedict Arnold association.  Even if people have forgotten the history after over 200 years, they remember that name connotes “traitor,” in the way that “John Hancock” also now means “signature.”  The name Benedict itself has a much more pleasant meaning – “blessed.”  Ultimately, I think the Marvel treatment could finally push Benedict into the American top 1000 despite historical connotations.  I estimate this will happen in 2017. 

Many of the other actors in Dr. Strange have really unusual names too.  Besides the Benedicts, the cast also includes a Chiwetel (Ejiofor), Tilda (Swinton), and Mads (Mikkelsen).  Rachel (McAdams) is the popular outlier.  Chiwetel doesn’t appear in the extended data, though I wonder if it will as that actor becomes better-known (Fun fact: Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor were in The Martian together).  Tilda was given to 18 girls in 2015, and is rising – that might have more to do with the rising popularity of Matilda (#533)Mads is a recent newcomer to the extended data, first appearing in 2011; 13 U.S. boys were named Mads in 2015. 

Nicodemus is the name of a minor character!  Given to 30 boys in 2015, it’s a Biblical name which derives from Greek and means “victory of the people.”  A boost in 2016 and 2017 is possible but not necessarily going to happen; he’s listed as Dr. Nicodemus West in credits and cast lists, but he was always called Nick or Dr. West if I heard correctly. 

Two character names I think we should watch out for as potential debuts in 2016 or 2017 data are Mordo and Kaecilius.  They might be too strange (heh heh) for most parents, but Drax debuted last year via Guardians of the Galaxy.  I also think it will be very interesting to see if Strange becomes a baby name, though I don’t hope for that to happen.  Wong is a contender to reappear. 

Have you seen Doctor Strange yet?  What did you think?  And how about the names?  Leave your thoughts in the comments. 

P.S.  If you haven’t seen it, there are two scenes during the credits – one at the beginning and one at the end.  I always see people leaving the theater after a Marvel film because they don’t realize there’s more. 

Links:

Wise William

William is one of the most popular names around!  In America, it ranks #5 nationally, but ranks #1 in D.C., Utah, Montana, and every Southern state except Florida.  Interestingly Liam, an Irish nickname for William, ranks even higher on the national level.  Liam comes in at #2, and ranks #1 in more states than the overall #1, Noah (which is probably only first because of California and Texas).  William also ranks highly in other English-speaking countries, and is currently the most popular boys’ name in all of Scandinavia.  That tidbit is especially curious when you consider that Scandinavian languages share their own form of the name (Vilhelm), yet speakers apparently prefer the English cognate! 

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William the Conqueror at center

Besides near-universal popularity, the name William also boasts longevity.  The Normans brought it from France to England in 1066, when William the Conqueror invaded and became king.  However, the name predates even that date.  One earlier William that comes to mind is William of Septimania, born in 826 AD.  He’s not particularly important on his own, but his mother Dhuoda addressed a book to him (incidentally, she’s the only female writer of the Carolingian era whose work survives!).  Nor was he the first William in his family.  Ultimately, this name has existed for at least 1200 years!

Those 1200 years of Williams are continuous and plentiful.  The name belongs to four U.S. Presidents, four (eventually five) English kings and more PMs, Shakespeare, saints, writers, actors, athletes, etc.  You will encounter Williams in every profession.  In America at least, William is popular in every age group too; it’s never been outside the top 20. 

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Why use a name that’s popular in every age group?  William certainly is ubiquitous and wizened.  But, parents, let me say this: William is timeless; tried-and-true.  He never sounds too old-fashioned or too new.  The only thing that really changes with age is the freshness of the nicknames that accompany William.  Few children will answer to Bill or Willie, I think.  The young Williams I know are mostly called William or LiamMaybe Will or Billy

What do you think of the name William

Links:

 

Perpetua

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Depiction of St. Perpetua’s Martyrdom

Some names are so beautiful that their rareness escapes all logic.  Perpetua, I perceive, falls in this category.  This name derives from Latin and means “continual” or “everlasting.”  Pronunciation-wise, the last two syllables ‘tua’ can be said like “chew-uh” or “tyoo-uh.”  Possible nicknames for Perpetua include Perri, Pet, Petra, and Petal

In 2015, only 13 baby girls were named Perpetua in the U.S.  That’s still comparatively high when you realize that it’s only appeared in the SSA birth data in the past 10 years.  Peak usage was in 2013 with 17 girls.

Perhaps strangely, Perpetua doesn’t even appear in the latest England/Wales data.  Why do I say ‘strangely?’  Well, I was under the impression that Perpetua was something of a British-ism.  Off the top of my head, I immediately think of the Bridget Jones character Perpetua (who admittedly was snobbish, though she’s somewhat redeemed by her approval of Bridget’s telling off Daniel) and the Harry Potter Chocolate Frog Card figure Perpetua Fancourt…both obviously British, or at least not American.   

That aside, I do believe most modern usage is religious in nature.  Perpetua semi-frequently appears on Sancta Nomina, which is a Catholic baby naming site (do check that out, even if you’re not Catholic.  Lovely naming styles!).  Indeed, Perpetua is the name of a famous early saint who was martyred at Carthage in the early 200s, during the reign of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.  St. Perpetua is also believed to be one of the earliest female Christian writers; she wrote a prison diary, which you can read here.

What do you think of the name Perpetua

 

Melody

Where are my fellow music-lovers?  Here’s a name I think you’ll like!

Melody has been a popular baby name since the early 1940s.  She’s never been a top 100 name, but last year she cracked the top 150 at #148, beating her old record of #153 in 1960.  It’s somewhat of a mystery how she managed to enter the top 1000 in 1942 with so high a rank of #523, but I’ve found two possibilities with extremely similar names.  The first is a champion horse named Melody Maid who competed throughout the south between 1939 and 1942.  The second is an all-girl band called the Melody Maids, possibly or coincidentally named after the horse.  The group formed in 1942 came to sing in a wartime capacity.  The horse definitely seems to have influenced usage, since there were almost twice as many Melody‘s born in 1941 as in 1940.  What is unknown is whether the horse or the band more strongly affected the results of 1942. 

In more recent years, Melody was the name of Ariel’s daughter in 2000’s direct-to-video The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.  Yes, I’ve broken the cardinal rule of never mentioning Disney sequels.  But, it’s worth mentioning because the name received a boost that very year and the next.  In 1999, Melody ranked only #436; in 2000, she ranked #398, and then #290 in 2001.

This decade, Melody‘s rising popularity may be helped by the trendiness of other musical names like Aria (#29) and Harper (#10).  I wonder if other “Mel” names like Melanie (#80) and Amelia (#12) have influence too.  

What do you think about the name Melody?  Would you prefer something rarer, like Mélodie or Melodia

Inspired by the Daily Post’s prompt “Melody.”

Sources:

 

Drury, Wilmouth, and Sith: A Few Names from Colonial Virginia.

On a recent trip to a history library, I perused some books containing parish records from 18th-century Virginia.  These records are treasure troves of names!  Admittedly, most of the names within were pretty familiar and common even today – George, Mary, Thomas, and Elizabeth.  There were also some names I’m pretty sure you’d only see in the 17th or 18th century, like Obedience.

A few names especially jumped out at me because they actually seemed rather popular in their parishes.  However, there’s little to no information about these names today.  They are:

Drury – There were a lot of these.  I only got about halfway through the Bristol Parish lists, but I counted nearly ten of them.  Also spelled Drurey, this is the only name here that ever appeared in the American top 1000, and only once at that (even so, don’t take it for granted…before 1937 the SSA birth data isn’t even very accurate). 

Wilmouth – This name appeared in both parishes under various spellings.  Wilmouth was the most common rendering, though Wilmot, Willmouth, and Wilmoth also appeared.  Some of these spellings do eventually appear in Social Security birth data in the 1910s and 20s.  Again, take that information with a grain of salt. 

Sith – Yes, you read that right, and so did I.  The records of Overwharton Parish indicate that at least 2 girls were named Sith in the 1740s, and another Sith had a baby in 1749.  Additionally, a Sithy was born in 1753.  The records from that area aren’t all extant, so it’s possible there were more.  What kind of name is Sith?  A family name?   Maybe it came from a galaxy far, far away?  Anyway, this doesn’t even appear in the data once, even after Star Wars.  

Unfortunately, I only had the chance to look at the lists for Overwharton and Bristol Parishes.  I wonder what other locally-popular names I might find elsewhere?

Thoughts, anyone? 

Sources:

  • Boogher, Wm. F.  Old Stafford County, Virginia: Overwharton Parish Register 1720-1760.  Baltimore: Clearfield Publishing Co., 2003. 
  • Chamberlayne, Churchill Gibson, transcriber.  Births from the Bristol Parish Register of Henrico, Prince George, and Dinwiddie Counties, Virginia, 1720-1798.  Baltimore: Clearfield Publishing Co., 1990. 
  • http://www.nancy.cc/baby-names/

 

Correction: One Sith wasn’t born in 1749, but bore a child in that year.  That means the others could be named after her, but that still doesn’t answer the question regarding whence the name originates.