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Baby Name Boom or Bust? The Popularity of a Name

According to the US Census Bureau, there are over 5000 different first names in the US alone, this means that your name is unlikely to be as unique as you once thought. 

Some names such as Ella and Oscar, which were popular in the US way back in the 1800s, remain widely used today. Other names become popularised as historical figures come to public attention. Names such as Alfred, Beatrice, and Bertie became widely popular in England and Wales during the late 19th century as Queen Victoria used them for her children. 

Your first name sticks with you for your entire life. And just like everything else, names gain popularity and lose popularity throughout time, eventually reaching possible extinction. 

Researchers at MyHeritage have looked through their own historic Census archives and teamed this with current information from the ONS and SSA to predict how long current popular names will stick around. Is your name falling out of favor?

19th Century Names 

Names that were once considered old-fashioned are booming, with traditional names soaring worldwide. 

Using MyHeritage data, from the available census records, we have tracked the popular 19th-century names. By tracking the names of both the US and England and Wales during the 1800s we found that the top 10 names during that period were very similar across the pond. Out of the top 10, six names appeared on both lists.

England and Wales

In England and Wales, John and Mary were the most popular names in 1780, where they remained in the top spot for a staggering 70 years. Elizabeth and William were also widely popular during this time, with William being the most popular by 1859. 

By the 1870s, Alice and Annie became popular across England and Wales. 

Some names remained timeless throughout 1780 through to 1910. Thomas and James proved popular by remaining in the top 10 throughout these dates.

Traditional baby names are seeing a resurgence in popularity. Monikers that fell out of fashion after the Victorian era are coming back in a big way. 

Those seeking a timeless adage for their child have helped boost the popularity of Bertie, which is up 1,646 places in the rankings. As well as Olive, which has almost reached its 1800s peak once more after almost a century out of the top 100. 

Some names have eclipsed their original heyday. Violet and Elsie saw higher rankings in 2019 than they did 200 years ago. 

Names like Agnes, which peaked in 1910 but dropped out of the top 100 names in 1935, have started to make their way towards the top 100 again. 

For male names, 2012 was the peak year for a Victoriana revival. Alfred, Bertie, Frank, Fred, Leonard, and Sidney all reached their peak this year with babies born at the beginning of the 2010s given the names. 

Wilfred also saw a boost in popularity, with even the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson choosing the name for his youngest son in 2020. 

United States of America

In the US, Carmen was the most popular name in 1860, but Clyde took the top spot by the 1870s. Names such as Bettie and Amanda that were once favored in 1860 failed to regain popularity after 1870, whilst Caroline and Clara took their place. 

By the 1900s, Diane and Emily dominated, as well as Arthur and Donald. Gail and Earl climbed to the top by 1910. Names such as George also became popular, reaching top position by the 1920s. 

By the 1940s, Laura and Irene were the most popular, followed by Philip and Harrold. Names such as Carol and Everett also became widely well-liked, appearing in the top 10. 

American parents are also turning to the history books when naming their children. 

Presidential names like Franklin or Theodore and historic adages such as Walter have seen a resurgence in recent years, peaking in 2019 and 2017 respectively. 

Certain names, like Ada and Pearl, went from a top 50 position in the 1800s, to not even charting within the top 1000 twenty years ago. As recent trends show, both of these names have gained rank since dropping out of favor. 

Ella and Nora have gained in popularity hugely since the turn of the 21st century. Both names have managed to overtake their 1800s positions. 

Biblical names such as Jacob have also boomed, hitting their popularity levels in 2012. 

For the girls, classic and timeless names such as Ada, Ella, Maggie, and Pearl have also seen recent revivals. 

20th-century names 

For an insight into names across the generations, MyHeritage has also researched the popular 21st-century adages. Although most of the names appear to be resilient against generational change, the male names remain high in popularity in 2019. 

England and Wales

Many names can be traced back to trends across decades. Perhaps you have friends who share your name or family whose names remind you of generations previous.

Yet many of these names have seen their heyday and have significantly dropped in popularity as time has gone by. 

Male names have considerably more longevity and seem to buck trends. 

Names like Thomas, Jack, Daniel, and James all came within the top five names between the 1970s and 1990s but still make the top 50 in 2019. 

The name Micheal is grasping in the top 20 male names in 2019, a small drop for number one in both the 80s and 90s. 

While female names like Nicola, Claire, Lisa, and Gemma have seen their rankings drop from most popular to in the late hundreds or even thousands today. 

Some names rally against trends though, Emily ranks in the top three for 1990 is still fighting in the top 15 in 2019.

The baby boomer generation was coined after an unprecedented rise in birth rates post World War II – but what are they called? 

Susan and David took the number one spot in both the 1950s and 60s, as the popularity of the names grew. Whilst David remains popular in modern times, Susan failed to regain the same popularity as it once did. 

Linda and John took second place during the 1950s. This was overruled by Julie and Paul during the 1960s, as The Beatles frontman Paul McCartney popularised the name by the late 1960s. 

All of the names during the baby boomer generation failed to appear in the top five in recent years, falling into extinction. 

United States of America

A new era meant some new names became favored across the US during the late 20th century. 

Michael was the most popular male name throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson made the name favored by many.

Whilst Jennifer was the most popular female name in the 1970s, this was replaced by Jessica in the 80s and 90s. 

David also remained popular, appearing in the top 5 for both the 1970s and 80s in the US, however failing to regain its popularity moving into the 1990s. 

Emily and Jacob also appeared as the most popular during the 1990s, for the first time, and keeping their popularity moving into the new millennium. 

Moving into the mid 20th century in the US, some names remained on the list of the most popular. 

Mary and James were the most popular names in the 1950s and remained popular moving into the 60s. Some names fell off the radar, including Deborah and Patricia, falling to return by the 1960s.

The most popular names moving into the 1960s were Lisa and Michael, taking the top spot. James, Robert, John, and David all managed to keep their popularity into the 1960s, remaining on the list.

Some new female names, such as Kimberly and Karen appeared as the most popular for the first time. 

As these names dominated the US during the mid 20th century, all except James managed to retain their popularity moving into 2019. 

Futuristic First Names

Not only did we analyze trends of names in the past, but the researchers at MyHeritage then looked to the future. Using birth data from 2015-2019 in England and Wales and the US we have tracked the rise and fall of the most popular names and predicted which names are beginning to lose popularity.

By using decades of data, we have looked at the rate each popular name is used across years, where many traditional names have seen a rapidly reduced popularity rate, and by tracking these reductions we have projected forwards to see when some names might reach their lowest point. 

England and Wales

England and Wales saw a mix of traditional and modern names appear from 2015 to 2019, yet most of the popular names are set to drop in popularity before 2050. This leaves only three names that withstand the test of time. 

Amelia took the top spot in 2015 with over 5000 births, but with its rate of use declining in the last few years, it is set to slip down the rankings. 

Yet the research found some names that are resilient to trends. George, Noah, and Charlotte all remained popular, with names such as Noah predicted to reach over 4000 births in 2050. George has been an incredibly popular choice for decades. The moniker, which has Greek origins, was boosted in popularity by the Christian Saint George. Our records from the 1841 census show that, at the time, there were 433,744 people named George aged between 0 and 75 in England and Wales. 

United States of America

From 2015 to 2019, the US had more contemporary names than England and Wales and saw fewer names at risk of decline by 2050. 

Abigail was a popular choice in 2015, with over 12,000 births, but the name is predicted to drop out of the top spots by 2030. Names such as Harper remain popular throughout the years, but Liam triumphs the lists with an expected birth rate of 38,700 in 2050. 

The names Charlotte and Noah are the most resilient to popularity fluctuations in future years. Charlotte is an age-old name, so timeless it saw over 4,000 births from our oldest records dating back to the 1830s. While Noah is also a choice with biblical connotations, making it more than a trend. 


Using census data dating back to 1750 provided by My Heritage, SSA and ONS we tracked and forecasted birth rates for the top names throughout history covering the UK and the US.

The post Baby Name Boom or Bust? The Popularity of a Name appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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