What I find particularly interesting is tracking the popularity of baby names over the decades. In looking through U.S. government baby name lists from 1880 to the present, some amusing patterns emerge, particularly in regards to baby names for girls.
For example, in Victorian times Biblical names, such as Mary, Sarah and Ruth were very popular for baby girls. There were also many baby names that sounded very old-fashioned to me, as a kid growing up in the 1960s, including names like Martha, Alice, Bertha and Minnie.
From the 1920s to the 1950s certain baby names rose in popularity. For example, I went to school with many Susans, Debbies, Patricias, and Lindas. All of these baby names have since waned, to be replaced, by the 1980s, with fancier names such as Jennifer, Jessica and Nicole. When I was a children’s librarian in the 1980s my preschool storyhours were populated with little girls named Lauren and Jenny, and little boys named Alex and Matthew.
More recently there’s been a lot of renewed interest in more “old-fashioned” baby names like Hannah, Abigail and Ethan, plus many Biblical names such as Sarah, Rachel, Joshua, Jacob, and Samuel. There’s also been a surge in nontraditional baby names including Madison, Ashley and Brianna for baby girls, and Brandon and Logan for baby boys.
It’s interesting to consider the whys and wherefores of such developments. Sometimes, I suspect, the popularity of a specific actor or fictional character might result in many babies with a particular name. For example, were some of the Lauras born in the 1970s and 1980s given a name suggested by older brothers and sisters who were growing up watching “Little House on the Prairie ?” Were some attributable to the super popular Laura of “General Hospital” fame ?