How popular is the baby name Betsy in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Betsy and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Betsy.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Betsy

Number of Babies Named Betsy

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Betsy

Early Recognition of the “Great-Grandparent Rule”

grandmotherA baby name becomes trendy for one generation. For the next two generations, while those initial babies are parent-aged and grandparent-aged, you can expect the name to go out of style. But during the third generation, once the cohort reaches great-grandparent age, the name is free to come back into fashion.

Evelyn is a name with a usage pattern that fits this description well.

I’ve seen it described elsewhere as the 100-Year Rule, but I prefer to call it the Great-Grandparent Rule, as it makes more sense to me to frame it in terms of generations.

Essentially, the pattern has to do with a name’s main generational association shifting from “a name that belongs to real-life old people” to “a name that sounds pleasantly old-fashioned.”

I used to think the pattern was one we’d only recently discovered — something we needed the data to see — but it turns out that at least one observant person noticed this trend and wrote about it in The San Francisco Call more than 100 years ago (boldface mine):

Time was — and that not very long ago — when old fashioned names, as old fashioned furniture, crockery and hand embroideries, were declared out of date. The progress of the ages that replaced the slower work of hand by the speed of machines cast a blight on everything that betokened age.

Spinning wheels were stowed away in attics, grandmothers’ gowns were tucked into cedar chests, old porcelain of plain design was replaced by more gaudy utensils and machine made and embroidered dresses and lingerie lined the closets where formerly only handwork was hung.

So with given names. Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, Sarah, Hannah and Anne, one and all, were declared old fashioned and were relegated to past ages to be succeeded by Gladys, Helen, Delphine, Gwendolyn, Geraldine and Lillian and a host of other more showy appellations.

Two generations of these, and woman exercised her time honored privilege and changed her mind.

She woke suddenly to the value of history, hustled from their hiding places the ancient robes and furnishings that were her insignia of culture, discarded the work of the modern machine for the finer output of her own fair hands, and, as a finishing touch, christened her children after their great-grandparents.

Old fashioned names revived with fervor and those once despised are now termed quaint and pretty and “quite the style, my dear.”

Pretty cool that this every-third-generation pattern was already an observable phenomenon three generations ago.

The article went on to list society babies with names like Barbara, Betsy, Bridget, Dorcas (“decidedly Puritan”), Dorothea, Frances, Henrietta, Jane, Josephine, Lucy, Margaret, Mary, Olivia, and Sarah (“much in vogue a century ago”).

Have you see the 100-Year Rule/Great-Grandparent Rule at play in your own family tree? If so, what was the name and what were the birth years?

Source: “Society” [Editorial]. San Francisco Call 17 Aug. 1913: 19.
Image: Frances Marie via Morguefile


Haitian Baby Named for Coast Guard Boat

Speaking of Dallas… In October of 1994, a pregnant Haitian woman named Betsy Veret gave birth aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas.

She and about 500 other Haitian refugees were being returned to their homeland from Guantanamo Bay.

What did she name the baby boy? Dallas Joseph.

(And here’s another baby named for a Coast Guard boat.)

Source: “Haitian Gives Birth to Son on Trip Home.” Eugene Register-Guard 26 Oct., 1994: 12A.

What Popularized the Baby Name Deneen?

mystery name deneen

Deneen is the million-dollar baby name mystery. It saw a massive spike in usage in 1964, and I had no idea why for years. Only recently have I stumbled upon a plausible explanation.

But first let’s check out the numbers. Here’s how many U.S. baby girls were named Deneen (or a variant) from 1963 to 1966, sorted by 1964 levels of usage:

Name 1963 1964 1965 1966
Deneen 22 1,604 421 223
Denine 17 133 101 71
Daneen 29 132 85 70
Dineen 10 68 43 35
Denene 7 66 38 31
Denean 7 58 61 40
Danine 7 29 23 31
Danene 12 24 18 11
Deneane 24* 11 9
Deneene 24* 13 14
Danean 14* 14 6
Deeneen 12**
Doneen 7 11 9
Dennine 10* 7 7
Deneena 7**
Deniene 7*
Dennen 7**
Donene 7
Deaneen 5**
Deneem 5**
Dinene 7**
TOTALS 118 2,247 842 557

*Debut, **One-hit wonder

According to the state-by-state data, Deneen usage tended to be highest in the most populous states. This isn’t much of a clue, but it does tell us that the influence was national (e.g., movie, music) and not regional (e.g., college sports, local politician).

For a long time my only guess on Deneen was the same guess Hilary Parker made in her poisoned baby names post: musical duo August & Deneen. But their hit single “We Go Together” came out in 1968 — long after the 1964 baby name spike. So August & Deneen clearly isn’t the answer.

About a month ago I tried another Deneen search. This time around I found a recent thread on Deneen at the Baby Name Wizard forum. According to intel gathered by forum members, Deneen could have been popularized by a ’60s commercial for Ivory dishwashing liquid.

At first I wasn’t so sure. The only vintage Ivory commercials I could find online were for Ivory Snow laundry detergent and, while many of these did feature names (e.g., Allison, Betsy, Bonnie, Debbie, Esther, Joy, Kerry, Kimberly, Michelle, Terry) the names were never on-screen. You don’t get a spelling-specific name spike if the influence is audio-only.

Then I noticed, lower down in the thread, that someone included a link to a single Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial from 1962. The spot featured a mother-daughter pair, “Mrs. Bernard Pugar and Dana,” and their names were indeed shown on-screen for several seconds. Now this looked promising.

I’ve since tracked down a similar Ivory commercial featuring “Mrs. Blake Clark” and her daughter Nicky, though Nicky’s name was never shown on-screen. No luck finding a Deneen version yet.

So I’ll just sit tight and hope that, one day, someone uploads the commercial in question and puts this whole Deneen baby name mystery to rest. :)

In the meanwhile, some questions:

  • If you were watching TV in the ’60s, do you happen recall an Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial featuring the name Deneen? (Long shot, I know.)
  • What do you think of the name Deneen? Which spelling do you like best?

P.S. Djuna popped up on the baby name charts in 1964 as well. I’m declaring 1964 the year of the mysteriously trendy D-names.

Names Popular During the Victorian Era

Tuesday’s post about the Victorian-style Tylney Hall Hotel reminded me of a list of Victorian-era names that I’ve had bookmarked forever.

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
  • Ada
  • Adella
  • Agnes
  • Allie
  • Almira / Almyra
  • Alva
  • America
  • Amelia
  • Ann / Annie
  • Arrah
  • Beatrice
  • Bernice
  • Charity
  • Charlotte
  • Chastity
  • Claire
  • Constance
  • Cynthia
  • Dorothy / Dot
  • Edith
  • Edna
  • Edwina
  • Ella
  • Eleanor
  • Ellie
  • Elizabeth / Eliza / Liza / Lizzy / Bess / Bessie / Beth / Betsy
  • Elvira
  • Emma
  • Esther
  • Ethel
  • Eudora
  • Eva
  • Fidelia
  • Frances / Fanny
  • Flora
  • Florence
  • Geneve
  • Genevieve
  • Georgia
  • Gertrude / Gertie
  • Gladys
  • Grace
  • Hannah
  • Hattie
  • Helen
  • Helene
  • Henrietta / Hettie / Ettie
  • Hester
  • Hope
  • Hortence
  • Isabell / Isabella
  • Jane
  • Jennie
  • Jessamine
  • Josephine
  • Judith
  • Julia
  • Juliet
  • Katherine / Kate
  • Laura
  • Leah
  • Lenora
  • Letitia
  • Lila
  • Lilly
  • Lorena
  • Lorraine
  • Lottie
  • Louise / Louisa
  • Lucy
  • Lulu
  • Lydia
  • Mahulda
  • Margaret / Peggie
  • Mary / Molly / Polly
  • Mary Elizabeth
  • Mary Frances
  • Martha
  • Matilda / Mattie
  • Maude
  • Maxine / Maxie
  • Mercy
  • Mildred
  • Minerva
  • Missouri
  • Myrtle
  • Nancy
  • Natalie
  • Nellie / Nelly
  • Nettie
  • Nora
  • Orpha
  • Patsy
  • Parthena
  • Permelia
  • Phoebe
  • Philomena
  • Preshea
  • Rachel
  • Rebecca / Becky
  • Rhoda / Rhody
  • Rowena
  • Rufina
  • Ruth
  • Samantha
  • Sally
  • Sarah
  • Sarah Ann
  • Sarah Elizabeth
  • Savannah
  • Selina
  • Sophronia
  • Stella
  • Theodosia / Theda
  • Vertiline / Verd
  • Victoria
  • Virginia / Ginny
  • Vivian
  • Winnifred / Winnie
  • Zona
  • Zylphia
  • Aaron
  • Abraham / Abe
  • Alan / Allen
  • Albert
  • Alexander
  • Alonzo
  • Ambrose
  • Amon
  • Amos
  • Andrew / Drew / Andy
  • Aquilla
  • Archibald / Archie
  • Arnold
  • Asa
  • August / Augustus / Gus
  • Barnabas / Barney
  • Bartholomew / Bart
  • Benjamin
  • Bennet
  • Benedict
  • Bernard
  • Bertram / Bert
  • Buford
  • Byron
  • Calvin
  • Cephas
  • Charles / Charley / Charlie
  • Christopher
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Clarence
  • Clement / Clem
  • Clinton / Clint
  • Cole
  • Columbus / Lom / Lum
  • Commodore Perry
  • Daniel / Dan
  • David
  • Edmund
  • Edward / Ned
  • Edwin
  • Eldon
  • Eli
  • Elijah
  • Elisha
  • Emmett
  • Enoch
  • Ezekiel / Zeke
  • Ezra
  • Francis / Frank
  • Franklin
  • Frederick / Fred
  • Gabriel / Gabe
  • Garrett
  • George
  • George Washington
  • Gideon
  • Gilbert / Gil
  • Granville
  • Harland
  • Harrison
  • Harold / Harry
  • Harvey
  • Henry / Hank
  • Hiram
  • Horace
  • Horatio
  • Hugh
  • Isaiah
  • Israel
  • Isaac / Ike
  • Isaac Newton
  • Jacob / Jake
  • James / Jim
  • Jasper
  • Jefferson / Jeff
  • Jedediah / Jed
  • Jeptha
  • Jesse
  • Joel
  • John / Jack
  • John Paul
  • John Wesley
  • Jonathan
  • Joseph / Josephus
  • Josiah
  • Joshua
  • Julian
  • Julius
  • Lafayette / Lafe
  • Lawrence / Larry
  • Leander
  • Les / Lester / Leslie
  • Lewis / Lew / Louis
  • Levi
  • Lucas
  • Lucian
  • Lucius
  • Luke
  • Luther
  • Louis
  • Levi
  • Lucas
  • Lucian
  • Lucius
  • Luke
  • Luther
  • Matthew
  • Marcellus
  • Mark
  • Martin
  • Martin Luther
  • Masheck
  • Maurice
  • Maxwell
  • Merrill
  • Meriwether
  • Meriwether Lewis
  • Michael / Mike
  • Micajah / Cage
  • Mordecai
  • Morgan
  • Morris
  • Nathaniel / Nathan / Nate / Nat
  • Newton / Newt
  • Nicholas / Nick
  • Nimrod
  • Ninian
  • Obediah
  • Octavius
  • Ora / Oral
  • Orville
  • Oscar
  • Owen
  • Paul
  • Patrick / Pat
  • Patrick Henry
  • Paul
  • Perry
  • Peter
  • Pleasant
  • Ralph
  • Raymond
  • Reuben
  • Robert / Bob
  • Robert Lee
  • Richard / Rich / Dick
  • Roderick
  • Rudolph
  • Rufus
  • Samuel
  • Sam Houston
  • Seth
  • Silas
  • Simon
  • Simeon
  • Stanley / Stan
  • Stephen
  • Thaddeus
  • Thomas / Tom
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Theodore / Ted
  • Timothy / Tim
  • Ulysses
  • Uriah
  • Victor
  • Walter
  • Warren
  • Washington
  • Wilfred
  • William / Will / Bill / Billy
  • Willie
  • Zachariah
  • Zebulon
  • Zedock

Which female name and male name do you like best?

Source: Victorian Era Names, A Writer’s Guide

Name Quotes for the Weekend #10

From Baby Names Beyond Parody at The Awl:

We didn’t quite believe it when we saw this on Kate Day’s Twitter, but here it is, in the Independent. Biggles George Fittleworth Jackson-Kew. And his sister. Posie Betsy Winifred Jackson-Kew. Who have an older sister. Named Tuppence.

But of course, things are crazy in England. The paper also makes note of the marriage of Peter Wood and Kitty Fox, and please let them hyphenate their names. “Hello, Mrs. Kitty Wood-Fox!”

From a Telegraph article by a UK mom with kids named Croyde, Kiki and Trixie:

My middle child may not have got through that particular net. She’s called Kiki (that alliteration thing again). I was inspired by the linguistic fact that it’s impossible to say the ‘ee’ sound without the mouth turning up into a smile. Plus, I know a sassy, smart Kiki in her thirties so I asked for her advice. “I love it” she said, “Nobody ever forgets it. But in The Philippines it means vagina so my mum’s cleaner can’t look me in the eye.” That swung it for me. I like the idea of a stealthy vagina. And it will hopefully be a deterrent to island hopping in South East Asia when she should be going to university.

From a Globe and Mail article about the death of Rehtaeh Parsons:

Rehtaeh is “Heather” spelled backwards, a name her mother thought was pretty.

From Attempting to create original baby names has repercussions in The Australian:

McCrindle Research director Mark McCrindle said many parents were now “designing” rather than choosing names, often driven by phonetics.

But he warned it could lead to a lifetime of grief for children whose names are now attached to their digital profile.

“More than ever, people are saying, ‘it’s my child’s name, I am going to give it some difference’,” he said.

“But I think sometimes parents are being a bit short-sighted in the designing of their children’s names.”

From an article on names in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“The Name Game” was a hit for Shirley Ellis in 1965. You know the song: “Shirley-Shirley-bo-burly, banana-fana-fo-furly, fee-fie-foe-murly … Shirley!” She bragged that “there isn’t any name that you can’t rhyme.” While entertaining soldiers in Vietnam, however, she discovered she couldn’t rhyme “Rich” or “Chuck.”

From a 5 Ways to Sabotage Your Baby Name Search at Upswing Baby Names:

While I don’t condone picking a name that is blatantly humorous, I would never disqualify a name just because it has remote teasing potential. For example, some parents will eliminate a name for rhyming with a funny word. But if you think long enough, you can find a funny word to rhyme with many names. Instead of trying to find the safest (most boring) name possible for your child, work on building their social skills instead.

From Betting on Baby in The Daily Beast:

Despite being a modern couple, Will and Kate are almost guaranteed to pluck a traditional moniker — like Mary, Victoria, or Elizabeth (a favorite) — from the royal bloodline, says author Phil Dampier, who has spent 27 years covering the royal family.

In mid-April, bets for the name Alexandra (Queen Elizabeth’s middle name) surged unexpectedly, causing house odds at William Hill to jump from 33/1 to 2/1. Other major betting firms also slashed their previously high odds. The profiles betting on Alexandra (new accounts, higher bets) led bookies to suspect an inside tip had leaked.

From an episode of The Mindy Project:

Mindy: “I want kids, four kids. Madison, Jayden, Bree and the little one’s Piper.”

Danny: “Are you kidding me with those names? You want a bunch of girls who work at the mall?”

From Parents Name Their Child Bane, Secure His Future Grudge Against Batman, Mumbling at The Mary Sue:

A couple from England have named their newborn baby boy, Bane. Yes, after the Batman villain last seen in The Dark Knight Rises. Rugby player Jamie Jones-Buchanan and wife Emma told The Sun they always agreed to give their children unusual names.

Oh yes, there’s more.

The couple have three other children. Two are named after Star Trek characters – Lore and Dacx [sic] – while the other is named after Highlander’s Kurgan.

From ‘Twas Ever Thus at British Baby Names:

In the late 18th and 19th century talk about names often bandied the phrase “romantic names” around. From all I can glean, it was used generally as a euphemism for any name considered slightly fanciful or outlandish, in much the same way “creative names” or “unique names” are used today.

[…]

The idea was, of course, also then picked up in essays and newspapers. Strangely, although we now tend to associate fanciful names with the aristocracy, it is the working classes who get the brunt of criticism in much of the commentary.

From British grandmother claims she was raised by monkeys at Today.com:

Marina Chapman’s book, “The Girl with No Name,” claims that she was raised by monkeys in the Colombian jungle for about five years of her childhood, adopting their behavior and eating the same food. Chapman claims that a group of capuchin monkeys became her surrogate family after she was kidnapped and abandoned in a Colombian jungle when she was 4 years old.

After living with the monkeys for several years, Chapman says she encountered hunters who tried to sell her into domestic slavery in the Colombian city of Cucuta. She then ran away and became a thieving street kid before being adopted by a loving family in Bogota as a teenager and giving herself the name Marina.

This reminds me of that isolated indigenous Brazilian man

And, finally, a bit about Quaker names from Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer:

Delaware Quakers also differed from other English-speaking people in the descent of names from one generation to the next. Unlike New England Puritans, Quakers named their first-born children after grandparents. Unlike Virginia Anglicans, they were careful to honor maternal and paternal lines in an even-handed way.

[…]

These naming choices were not invented in the New World. They were virtually identical among Quakers in England’s North Midlands and America’s Delaware Valley. Through the eighteenth century, males received the same combination of biblical and teutonic names — with John, Thomas, William, Joseph and George the leading favorites among Friends on both sides of the water. Quaker females were mostly named Mary and Sarah in English and America, with Hannah, Anne, Elizabeth, Hester, Esther and Deborah strong secondary favorites. Plain English names such as Jane, and traditional Christian favorites such as Catherine and Margaret preserved their popularity among Quakers, more so than among Puritans. Also exceptionally popular among Quakers in England and America was the name of Phebe, which rarely appeared in Puritan and Anglican families.