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From the Vaults: 1916's Top 10 Baby Names

Blog > From the Vaults: 1916's Top 10 Baby Names
Posted on: May 27th, 2017by Ruth Fitzpatrick

Day 3 of us rooting through the SSA's baby name vault! This time looking at the ten most popular names 100 years ago. Plenty of classics to be found, but do any of them surprise you?

The boys...

John John means 'God is gracious' and, if nothing else, it has certainly graced a lot of Social Security cards! After enjoying its first four or so decades at the top spot, the name has seen a very (very!) small, though consistent, drop in popularity. Last year just under 10,000 Johns were born; 100 fewer than the more recent J-name addition, Jayden.

William Still immensely popular, William has never been outside the top 20 in the US. Thanks to a brief lull (comparatively) in usage in the late '80s and early '90s, this classic name still manages to sound fashionable and fresh.

James Another enduring classic with innumerable distinguished literary, presidential, sporting and innovator namesakes to look up to.

Robert A name which no longer sounds particularly stylish or in vogue, it is still widely in use among American parents, though traditionally as an honorific family name.

Joseph An enduring name with plenty of cultural importance. It has a cross-cultural and pan-religious significance which could be particularly appealing to some prospective parents.

Charles A name which sounds quite weighty for a 21st century little boy, but luckily it comes complete with the adorable diminutive, Charlie!

George Experiencing a bit of a resurgence after England's Princess Kate gave birth to her own little George! In 2016 it was ranked #125 in the US, but is definitely one to watch.

Edward It looks like not even a brooding teen vampire can resurrect this one. Still fairly common and relatively safe in the top 200, Edward has been slipping down the charts year on year since its heyday in the early 20th century.

Frank 21st century parents still don't seem convinced of this classic name's potential. But with our love for strong, mono-syllabic names, this could be a future winner!

Thomas Like Charles, Thomas in its full form sounds quite hefty for a little boy. But, again like Charles, there are plenty of diminutives and variants to choose from, like Tom, Tomasso or Tommy.

...and the girls

Mary The most popular name by far, from the start of records in 1980 right up until the mid-60s. Since then, though, its popularity has plummeted year on year. It's still holding its own at #127, but many parents are now opting for more fashionable-sounding variants such as Marie or Molly.

Helen A name which somehow managed to become stuck with the label of being somewhat boring and serious. In our opinion, this is completely unwarranted: meaning 'bright, shining light', it's of course synonymous with the most beautiful woman in Greek mythology: Helen of Troy.

Dorothy Some 27,000 less Dorothys were born last year than 100 years ago, but we can still definitely see its potential as a revived classic! Meaning 'gift from God', we also really like the original Greek version of Dorothea, which has a certain cross-cultural appeal.

Margaret Another classic that's due a comeback? We think so! A powerful sounding name meaning 'pearl', it still carries a certain air of aristocracy and grace.

Ruth Perhaps this writer is slightly biased (!) but we quite like this one! In recent years its managed to shake off its 'old-woman' label, having seen a slight uptake in usage as more parents opt for traditional Old Testament names.

Mildred Some traditionally 'old-fashioned' names have seen a renaissance in recent years, but Mildred is not one of them. It and its close sister Millicent don't have a particularly pleasant ring to them, but we can definitely see the appeal of the cute diminutive of Millie.

Anna Still the most popular of all the Anne-related names. Hugely popular in other countries and cultures, it does have a global appeal.

Elizabeth The "William" of girls' names it would seem: this name has never not been popular. It experienced a lull in usage during the late '40s and early '50s, but even then, it never dropped out of the top 25. Currently sitting at #13, it looks like there's at least another 100 years of chart topping for this name!

Frances Could be seeing a comeback, having leaped more than 300 places in the last decade. Though sweet and soft sounding, it might suffer from sounding practically indistinguishable from the boys' name Francis. We prefer the Italian variant of Francesca, to give this classic name a fashionable edge.

Virginia Virginia is powerful, historic name which could easily make the crossover from classic to chic. It means 'virginal, pure' and has heavy literary kudos with its namesake, Virginia Woolf.

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