There is no decision more important for a parent than what to name a newborn. Yesterday, we examined education in the 1910s. The eighth graders taking the exit exam in 1910 would have been born around 1896. What names would have appeared on their classroom rolls, and how do those names compare to today?
Then and Now
The most popular names for girls, according to the Social Security Administration, in 2014 were Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Isabella, Ava, Mia, Emily, Abigail, Madison and Charlotte.
For boys, it was Noah, Liam, Mason, Jacob, William, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, James and Daniel.
There was no Social Security Administration in 1890, but the SSA does have a record of the 200 most popular names of the 1890s, based on Social Security applications made in the 1930s.
During the 1890s, the top girls names were Mary, Anne, Margaret, Helen, Elizabeth, Ruth, Florence, Ethel, Emma and Marie.
For boys, it was John, William, James, George, Charles, Joseph, Frank, Robert, Edward and Henry.
Only Emma and James have survived the test of time.
Names that Make Our Ancestors Say, “HUH?”
Our ancestors would certainly be surprised by the top 200 names of the 2000s.
Madison, Taylor, Avery, Kennedy, Peyton, Reagan and Delaney were surnames in 1890, not girls names.
They would have been confused by the gender of girls named Mackenzie, Addison, Kimberly, Shelby, and Kelsey. Those were male names in the 1890s.
Newfangled names like Destiny, Makalya, Autumn, Neveah, Aaliyah, Sierra, Cheyenne, Summer, Rylee, Skylar, Genesis, and Alondra also would have made our ancestors shake their heads.
The boys list would not have been nearly as shocking, although names like Jayden, Chase, Cole, Brayden, Kaden, Dakota, Gage, Brody, Colby and Bryson probably would have made our ancestors throw up their hands.
Names that Make Us Say, “What Were They Thinking?”
It works both ways. There are many names that appear in the top 200 for the 1890s that parents today would never dream of naming their children.
You might be surprised to know that Bertha was 12th most popular name for girls. The name was forever ruined by World War One and the Big Bertha gun.
Other girls’ names you rarely hear bestowed on newborns today include Minnie (probably because of Minnie Mouse), Edna, Mabel, Ida, Hazel, Gertrude, Pearl, Myrtle, Edith, Nellie, Elsie, Mildred, Gladys, Alma, Stella, Beulah, Eunice and Fern.
Names you never hear given to boys anymore include Fred, Clarence, Earl, Elmer, Floyd, Claude, Clifford, Lester, Leroy, Dewey, Archie, Horace, Milton, Percy, Marion, Grover, Rufus, Wilbur, Sylvester, Adolph, Elbert, Alonzo, Cornelius, Reuben and Moses.
Some names would cause controversy today like Mamie, Fannie and Selma.
And some names you might not even have realized existed like Effie, Lottie, Orna, Eula, Essie, Flossie, Alta, Ola, and Ina.
What old-fashioned name do you wish would make a return? What contemporary name do you think needs to be retired? Leave your comments below.
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