Traditional Names Dying Out

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A leading family history website recently analysed millions of birth records to discover which traditional names are in danger of dying out.

The names most at risk for boys are Willie, Cecil and Rowland, while for girls the names Gertrude, Bertha and Blodwen have virtually disappeared. [Blodwen, incidentally, is a Welsh name and it means “white flowers”.]

The site used its birth record collections dating back to 1905 to work out the decline in the popularity of certain names. The website categorised other names as “endangered”, as they are seldom used nowadays for new-borns. Those names include Horace, Leslie and Norman for boys, and Doris, Edna and Hilda for girls. They have fallen in prevalence by 99 percent since 1905.

Other names they looked at can dip in and out of fashion when it comes to naming children, calling them the “at risk” names (fallen in popularity by 98 percent) – Arnold, Bernard and Cyril for boys, Dorothy, Lilian and Mildred for girls.

Popular names from the early 20th Century have changed over the years, evolving into shorter forms. They calls this the Alife effect. Those names include Freddie instead of Frederick, Archie for Archibald and Charlie rather than Charles. The Alife effect also applies for female names. Ellie is more popular than Eleanor, Sophie instead of Sophia and Lexi used in place of Alexandra.

There are certain 1905 names that are still common, such as Hannah, Lily, Lydia, Alan, Joe and Patrick. The leading family history website says this is due to one in three parents choosing an ancestor’s name for their child. And certain old-fashioned names have become more fashionable in recent years. Amelia, Grace, Isabella, Charlie, Jacob and Oliver fall into this category.

Interestingly, the research showed that girls’ names are more in danger of disappearing than boys’. The site attributes this to the habit of men’s names passing from father to son, whereas a mother’s name is more likely to be picked as a middle name for a daughter.

 

Our research into family trees certainly bears out this study. Names from the late 19th Century/early 20th Century censuses are very different from the names recorded in the last census for instance. It will be interesting to see what happens in years to come and which currently fashionable names will survive as the years go by.

Do you have an old-fashioned family name that has been kept on? We’d love to know! Tweet us at @findersprobate.