March 13, 2011

Ever wondered about the most popular baby names of the 1930s?

Day 72 of Vintage 365

{Immensely beautiful photo from 1932 of a young mother and her darling little baby. I wonder what 1930s name this adorable tyke was given? Photo via Julie Wilson World on Flickr.}

Names fascinate me. As a child I poured over my mother's spiral bound baby name book until the pages were quite literally falling out (sorry, mom!). I adored that book, with it's soft pink, light blue and crisp white cover that foretold of the fascinating information related to bestowing a name on one's child that it contained within. I read through each name and its original and meaning, soaking up that information with gusto, feeling all the while that perhaps one day it would serve me well.

Indeed, it has. While I haven't had the honour of naming any children of my own yet, I've been grateful many times for the diverse array of information I extracted from that tome of monikers, and even now many years later I'm still intrigued by the diverse array of names that people have bestowed upon their children over the centuries.

Perhaps one of the most interesting elements behind baby names is how particular ones become fades, whereas others are as timeless as the grass is green. My own first name, Jessica, was amongst the most popular of the 1980s (when I was born) and early 90s, yet just a couple of decades earlier it was a relatively uncommon name (not rare, but far from the days of my youth when it seemed there were at least three Jessicas in every elementary school classroom).

Just as certain of-the-moment names are highly popular now in the 2010s (think Jaxon, Mason, Jackson, Riley, Addison, Peyton, McKenzie, Rhys/Reese, Chloe, and Kennedy - to list but a few), so to have various names been widely bestowed upon newborns throughout the years.

In the 1930s, the decade in which my maternal grandma (Bernice) was born, according to the US Social Security Agency, names like Donald, Raymond, Charles, and Thomas were popular for little boys, whereas moms were keen to dub their daughters Betty, Shirley, Dorothy, and Barbara. Other common (but slightly less popular) 1930s baby name options for girls included Mildred, June, Rita, Delores, Gladys, Loretta, Ethel, and Gertrude.

If the topic of names is something that interest you, too, than you may enjoy checking out the lists of top 200 baby names (for both males and females) that the SSA has online for every decade between the 1880s and the 2000s.

These lists provide a fascinating snapshot of what names have come and gone, remained popular and (in some instances) nearly vanished  from use completely over the past several decades.

They're perfect for anyone who has a child, pet, fictional character, beloved car, or other being or item that needs a wonderful name that draws inspiration from a certain point in time - and were they compiled into a book when I was a child, chances are I'd have read them until they were falling apart at the seams, too. Smile


  1. I have long wondered how anyone could look at a beautiful little baby girl and be moved to name her, "Mildred." I just can't see that one. Eeeck!

    Fascinating idea for a post. Thanks!

  2. I like Mildred and Ethel, but my husband wouldn't let me use such a name on our baby girl. He said it sounded like an old lady. I said name a pretty little girl Mildred or Ethel or Maude and soon enough the name would make him think of a pretty little girl rather than an old lady.

    We settled on Lila, which is a very old-fashioned name but modern enough for him.

  3. I love names too. It took for EVER for us to come up with a name for my daughter. Both of our kids will have two middle names because #1, I'm indecisive and #2, that way when they decide that they hate their name (like we often do) they will have plenty of others to choose from. *lol* Naming kids can be so annoying when it comes to name trends. You go through all of the trouble to choose something really unique and suddenly, that name is everywhere- like my Rhys and Olivia! Oh, well- I love the names anyway! :) I love looking back in old family history books at some of the names. My great grandma is an Alma and her sisters were Onita and Emma Claire. My other great grandma is Marcella, which I -love-!

  4. My dad, born in 1931, had 12 siblings all named pretty typical names of the era: Wesley (my dad), Charles, Raymond, Preston, Clyde, Donald, Harold, Mildred, Lois, Lela, Dora, Mary, and Zelma. Of all of those, Zelma is the only name I've never encountered anywhere other than my family tree.

  5. My own son went with a very popular name since the 1800's; William. Not very original but a family name and a strong one. =)

  6. I've long been fascinated with names too, and especially as I've been researching my genealogy, it's been even more fascinating. Of my 4 great-grandmothers, 2 of them have names that I would consider horrible---Bertha and Beryl. Yet, when I look back at census records from the 1880's and 1890's, I see that those were quite common names for women.

    I have several Davids and Edwards in my lineage as well, and those names have pretty much been timeless.

    I like that some of the old-fashioned names (like Emma and Grace, for instance) are back in popularity. I do think it's fun, though, to hear a name and try to guess the decade of birth. Brittany says 1980's to me...Austin, Dylan, and Katelyn say 1990's.

    Anyhow, this was a fun always!!