A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
The Social Security Administration’s annual baby name list only includes names given to 5 or more U.S. babies, of either one gender or the other, per year.
Most rare names never make the list, but a select group have appeared a single time. I like to call these the one-hit wonder baby names.
One-hit wonders tend to pop up with a relatively low number of babies — 5 or 6 — but a handful are given to dozens of babies…only to disappear again the next year! Intriguing, no?
Below are the highest-charting, gender-specific, one-hit wonder names for every year on record before 2013. (We won’t know which 2013 names are one-hit wonders until later lists come out.) The format is: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.”
The list was created by amateur genealogist G. M. Atwater as a resource for writers. It contains names and name combinations that were commonly seen in the U.S. from the 1840s to the 1890s. Below is the full list (with a few minor changes).
Victorian Era Female Names
Victorian Era Male Names
Abigale / Abby
Almira / Almyra
Ann / Annie
Dorothy / Dot
Elizabeth / Eliza / Liza / Lizzy / Bess / Bessie / Beth / Betsy
Here’s a question from Bess about the name Lachlan:
I found the name Lachlan in a list of popular names in Australia. I live in the southeastern US. I like the name, but some people have had negative reactions to it. My husband seems to think it is a name you give a kid if you are trying to make them sound cool. What do you think? We are thinking of the middle name Allen.
I like the name Lachlan, but I can understand what your husband is saying.
Would the baby have any extra connection to the name? For instance, Scottish (or Norwegian) heritage? Relatives or ancestors with the name? Do you or your husband have any favorite book or movie characters named Lachlan, or some link to Australia?
Without some sort of personal significance, the name is simply a name off a list…and likely is being chosen because it sounds cool. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But a meaningful association is the very thing that would take the name from “cool-sounding” to something deeper.
(Ironically, I’ve been getting quite a few e-mails about the name Lachlan lately. This leads me to believe that people are becoming quite interested in the name…and will perhaps start using it more often. So, while Lachlan is unique right now, in the coming years it may become trendy, and, hence, not as cool-sounding.)
What other reasons are people giving for disliking the name? (Same as your husband? Or, are they having trouble with the pronunciation, maybe?)
Beyond that…I do like Allen as a middle. I think “Lachlan Allen” is a really nice-sounding combination.
What does everyone else think about Lachlan?