2 Mystery Baby Names: Ardis & Irva

Not only were the girl names Ardis and Irva the dual top baby name debuts of 1899, but they were also tied for the 5th-highest debut of the late 1800s, according to SSA data:

  1. 38 baby boys: Hobson in 1898 (influence: war)
  2. 35 baby girls: Manilla in 1898 (influence: war)
  3. 25 baby boys: Admiral in 1898 (influence: war)
  4. 23 baby boys: Corbett in 1892 (influence: boxing)
  5. 19 baby girls: Ardis and Irva in 1899 (influence: ?)
  6. 18 baby girls: Ebba in 1888 (influence: royalty)

So far I haven’t been able to figure out what caused either debut, though. Maybe you guys can help me out?

Here’s what I know so far…

Ardis

According to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), the number of people named Ardis jumped from at least 10 in 1898 to at least 86 in 1899. (The SSDI is a better source of raw-number data than the SSA for the late 1800s and early 1900s.)

  • 1901: 47 people with the first name Ardis
  • 1900: 59 people with the first name Ardis
  • 1899: 86 people with the first name Ardis
  • 1898: 10 people with the first name Ardis
  • 1897: 15 people with the first name Ardis

The SSDI data also indicates that the usage of Ardis was highest during three successive months: July (12 births), August (17 births), and September (12 births).

Getting back to the SSA data…when Ardis was at peak popularity from the 1910s through the 1940s, it was particularly trendy in the Midwest (especially Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin). This regional preference may have existed in 1899 as well, though it’s hard to tell.

Finally, a novel with the name Ardis in the title — Frank R. Stockton’s Ardis Claverden — existed in 1899. It had been published in 1890, though, so it probably didn’t cause the debut. (Unless it was serialized in the newspapers a decade later…?)

Irva

The SSDI shows that the number of people named Irva jumped from at least 7 in 1898 to at least 64 in 1899:

  • 1901: 14 people with the first name Irva
  • 1900: 18 people with the first name Irva
  • 1899: 64 people with the first name Irva
  • 1898: 7 people with the first name Irva
  • 1897: 5 people with the first name Irva

The name Erva also debuted in 1899. Alternative spellings sometimes point to an audio influence like talkies or television, but the debuts of Irva and Erva predate most of these technologies.

So does anyone out there have any theories on either Ardis or Irva?

(And if you like doing baby name detective work, check out these other open cases!)


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