Names don't age well - 1940 vs. Today

While indexing the 1940 census last week, we noticed that many of the first names in the census are no longer popular. In fact, some names are so obscure they run the risk of becoming endangered.

We were interested in how names have changed since 1940 so we did a study on baby names. Our source was the US Social Security Administration which has recorded baby names, based on Social Security applications for births, since 1879

What we found is that baby names are really period pieces and have changed dramatically over time. Girl’s names have experienced the most drastic change.  For example, of the top ten baby girl names in 1940 only one (Mary) ranks in the top 500 for 2010.  Many like Betty and Carol no longer rank in the top 1000.

For boy’s baby names, Donald and Ronald came in as the biggest losers,  dropping from 9th and 10th to 377th and 342nd.  William on the other hand is still in the top ten dropping from 4th to 5th.

Here are the top 10 baby names in 1940 and 2010.

Top U.S. Baby Names

19402010
Girl's names
1MaryIsabella
2BarbaraSophia
3PatriciaEmma
4JudithOlivia
5BettyAva
6CarolEmily
7NancyAbigail
8LindaMadison
9ShirleyChloe
10SandraMia
Boy's names
1JamesJacob
2RobertEthan
3JohnMichael
4WilliamJayden
5RichardWilliam
6CharlesAlexander
7DavidNoah
8ThomasDaniel
9DonaldAiden
10RonaldAnthony

Source: Social Security Online

What is the most unusual name you have in your family tree?