27 August 2012

Girlsʼ names change 7 times more than boysʼ since 1940 Census

Source -- Social Security Administration (link in article)

I don’t come cross too many “young” Diane’s and I’m always pleasantly surprised when I come across anyone who share’s my name!  

My test of a forename’s popularity is whether you find it “printed” on merchandise when on vacation!  Fortunately or unfortunately for my children, we never find their names printed on anything.  Maybe I was a little too successful in giving them unique names!

This comes to mind because last month findmypast.com published a piece talking about baby names and their popularity as found in the 1940 census and today! Here is an abbreviated excerpt.

The most popular baby names for American girls at the time of the 1940 U.S. Census have changed since then seven times more than the top names for boys the same year, reveals a study by genealogy website, findmypast.com...

Findmypast.com researchers analyzed the records of the U.S. Social Security Administration, which has recorded American baby names since 1879... 

None of the top 10 girls' names in 1940 even make today's top 100, while seven of the top 10 boys' names do so and three (James, David, William) make the top 20.

"Baby names are like period pieces", says Josh Taylor, genealogist for findmypast.com. "Some recall a particular era, which can make them clues when researching family history."

Read the full PR piece.

Back to my name – Diane.  I visited the Social Security Administration (Baby Name Data) website to learn more about names and their popularity!  In the year I was born, my name was 19th in popularity and the list includes my husband’s name, my sister’s name, her husband’s name, etc.  So, we definitely seem to be a product of “our generation!”

And, how far my name has fallen!  For 2011, the name Diane is NOT in the top 1000 names, though the variant Diana is found in the 203rd spot!  I guess I’m more unique than I thought ....

copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.

NGS does not imply endorsement of any outside advertiser or other vendors appearing in this blog.
Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to [email protected]. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
Follow NGS via Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter
Think your friends, colleagues, or fellow genealogy researchers would find this blog post interesting? If so, please let them know that anyone can read past UpFront with NGS posts or subscribe!
Suggestions for topics for future UpFront with NGS posts are always welcome. Please send any suggested topics to [email protected]


  1. My middle name is Diane. But my first name, Heather, was so unknown in 1961 that the doctor who delivered me told my Mother not to give me dog's name. His hobby was breeding Scots Terriers! Twenty years later, when I was student teaching in a third grade ther were four Heathers in my class!

  2. On the theme of names, this post goes back 100 years and looks at the names that were popular. The name William is found on both. While other names have come and gone, the name William has stood resolute, http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/most-popular-baby-names-2011-vs-1911-william-163322452.html

  3. My three sisters name are on the list Donna, Deborah and Barbara. I was named by a nurse as my parents we expecting one child and got an added bonus a Denise Lynn. Over the years, they have complained about their name, but not me.