The other week the office for national statistics released the top 100 most popular baby names in England and Wales. This got me thinking at how the popularity of names has changed over the years. Are there any names that are consistently place high in the rankings and how do the top two names in any given year compare to 1860.
I chose 8 names that appear to me to be found in the census over the years the most and looked at how they ranked in the listing from 1860 to 2017.
It’s probably no surprise that in the 1860 which names were most popular. People were still using the more traditional names and naming their children after themselves or their grandparents.
By 1890 things had begun to change. William and Mary were still the most popular names but Anne and Catherine had begun to lose favour. If you consider their name variants though Ann was ranked 31st and Katherine was 153rd in the rankings. Of the names chosen Henry was the lowest ranking boy’s name.
From the data from 1924 we can see that the most popular names have changed. For boys it was John and for girls it was Margaret with William and Mary both slipping to 2nd on the list. In 1860 John ranked 2nd and Margaret ranked 10th. Both Anne and Catherine had risen up the ranks again.
By 1954 the most popular names in England and Wales were David and Susan, a completed change from previous years. In 1860 David ranked 17th and Susan 35th. From the 8 above William had slipped to 15th and Mary to 9th. Surprisingly Ann was back up to 10th and Catherine to 26th but Henry had fallen down to 83rd.
Jump forward to 1984 and the most popular names were Christopher and Sarah. I should know Sarah was popular. In the year I was born my parents thought it was a little used name, but in my class at secondary school there were 4 of us, with 3 of use born within 3 days of each other. In 1860 Christopher ranked 44th and Sarah 3rd. But what of our 8? Well the most popular of them were James and Elizabeth at 2nd and 25th respectively, but Henry and Anne fell out of the top 100.
So to last year 2017. Well the most popular names were Oliver and Olivia. In 1860 Oliver was ranked 63rd and Olivia 186th. In 2017 Anne was still out of the top 100 still and William was still the most popular of the boy’s names at 11th and Elizabeth still held the top spot at 44th. Both Catherine and Mary were down in the 300’s but Henry was back up to 13th.
I suppose in general it doesn’t really matter where our names rank, it’s more for interest than anything else. It can help genealogist as they may get a better feel for what names to look out for. If the parents are William and Mary then the chances are they will have children with the same name and may have been named after their parents themselves.
If you want to know how your name ranks why not have a look at:
and look where you name comes by year. Happy hunting.
Anyone who’s ever looked at genealogy records will probably have come across several spellings for the same name. Sometimes a name can be spelt several ways but not always so why does this happen? Well it could be for many reasons but in general I think it comes down to one thing. Accents.
We all have one no matter what we think. You only have to watch TV or listen to those around you to realise this. Sometimes when you’re watch something you wonder what they’ve said as people’s accents can be really thick and if it’s not an accent you’re used to it can be confusing. So it’s logical to think that people’s accents have had an impact on records relating to our ancestors.
Accents change throughout all countries by regions and so how people pronounce their name will appear different. It is not uncommon for people from the south east of England to pronounce words with extra letters in them so they say carstle and barth instead of the correct way of castle and bath. So if those writing down the records spell names as they hear them they may have got it wrong. Take my surname Dobby as an example. I pronounce it Dob bie but one teacher I had at school always said it as Doe bie no matter how many times I corrected her as that was the way she read it. So if someone had heard her say my name and written it down it would have been wrong. In Scotland the more common form of spelling is Dobbie so there’s no common ground in spellings.
Also many of our ancestors couldn’t read or write so they spelt their names as they heard them and an accent could make this sound much different to how it should have been spelt. Take for example the surname Beckett. I’ve come across it spelt Becket, Bickett, Backett. If you consider them with a Yorkshire accent then they are all possible. So if you’re searching for an ancestor and you can’t find them then you need to consider where they lived and attempt to put an accent to the name to find other possible spellings.
But this doesn’t always follow. If your ancestors moved from where they lived then an accent local to the address they lived at may not have helped. Take my double great grandfather for example. He was Scottish coming from near Govan so he possibly had a thick Glasgow accent. He moved to Sunderland where it was a soft Geordie accent and then to the east end of London. All I can say is that it was a good job he was using the surname Smith by the time he got to London.
It’s not only accents though that may make life difficult for researchers. Throughout the country their will have been regional name variations which mean the same names were spelt differently. Take the surname Smith. In some places it is spelt Smyth. So although it is the same name it might not come up in the search results. This means you have to be creative in your thinking.
So if you take all of this into account then finding people may become easier, or harder as you may get so confused it’s unbelievable. Just because you spell your name one way now doesn’t mean your ancestors spelt it like that. They may have gone with the spelling the registrar used on a birth or marriage certificate, but as levels of literacy improved their decedents changed the spelling again. It in effect could have ended up like Chinese whispers where one name went in and another came out.
I’ll hold my hand up from the start, I love a fail. They just make me laugh and cause my YouTube viewing to increase all the time, but is it just physical fails that make me laugh?
Well the answer is no. You get name fails too. Now admittedly many of the fails were probably not funny at the time and it is only as life has progressed that the funny side can be seen, I can attest to this. Pre Harry Potter, most people just thought I had a strange surname, but now…. Most just laugh or make a comment about my clothes. For those who don’t know my surname is Dobby, and Dobby is the house elf in the Harry Potter series. But I think some parents knew what they were doing when they chose their child’s name.
So onto the funny side of names in genealogy. I decided to spend an amusing day typing what I thought were funny names into Ancestry to see what I came up with. I’ll admit many I found amusing I have decided not to include as they could be considered rude. Really funny though. So here is my top 40 funny names in no particular order.
Rose Bush – There have been loads of these unfortunate ladies
Holly Tree - There have been loads of these unfortunate ladies
Hazel Nutt, born 1915 in Chesterfield
Timothy Burr, baptised 1726 in Essex (Tim Burr)
Daisy Weeds, born 1889 in Norfolk (my first cousin 3 times removed)
Cristafer Weeds married in Norfolk in 1561. (C.Weeds)
Grass Green who departed the UK in 1947
Teresa Green, born 1852 in Ware
Lilian Ruth Christmas Tree, baptised 1903
In 1886 in London Mary Magdalen married Abraham Bateau
Florence Angel Gabriel was buried in London in 1884
Merry Christmas was born in Sussex in 1874
Thomas Snow White was born in 1882
Cinderella Lord was born in Burnley in 1901
Donald Duck was found on the 1881 census
Michael Mouse was on the 1841 census (Mickey Mouse)
Minnie Mouse was born in Pendleton, USA in 1880
Robert Builder married Susanna Sproll in 1778 (Bob Builder)
Sam Fireman was living in London on the 1911 census (Fireman Sam)
Kitty Williem Catt was born in 1880
James Little Lyons was born in the USA in 1822
Jack Daws was born in Nottingham in 1902
Stanley Still has been the unfortunate name of many men (Stan Still)
Jo King was baptised in Watford in 1589
Annette Curtain (whose dates I’ve not given to spare blushes)
William Board has been the unfortunate name of many men (Bill Board)
Isla White was found on the 1851 census
Peter Perfect was born in Dartford in 1889
Bad Cook was born in Alabama, USA, around 1882
Good Cook was baptised in London in 1723
Olive Cart was born in Warwickshire in 1919
Sunny Day (whose dates I’ve not given to spare blushes)
Sidney Bridge was born in Essex in 1872 (not quiet there but close although my Uncle had a friend call Sidney Arborbridge but I can’t find his records)
River Jordan was born in Birmingham in 1854
Beau Bunting (whose dates I’ve not given to spare blushes)
Richard Taylor Coal Miner was buried in Kirkheaton in 1874
Norman Knight was a soldier during WW1, as was
Harold Norman Knight (who died during the conflict)
Austin Healey who was an England Rugby Player
Morris Van de Car was on the 1881 census (he couldn’t decide if he was a car or a van)
So when you find out your expecting the pitter patter of tiny feet, think through the name you choose carefully so you little one doesn’t have to endure a name fail! And future genealogist won’t sit typing into their genealogy websites to find the funny names like I do.
Happy New Year from Family History Research England
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!