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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Bridget

Number of Babies Named Bridget

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Bridget

The Surprising Source of Tierney

joseph mccarthy, adopted baby, tierney elizabeth
Joseph, Tierney and Jean McCarthy – Jan. 1957

The Irish surname Tierney first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1957. In fact, it was the top debut name of the year.

  • 1960: 18 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1959: 14 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1958: 26 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1957: 46 baby girls named Tierney [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

For a long time I’d assumed that Hollywood actress Gene Tierney was the cause. Then it dawned on me that Gene’s career was on the wane in 1957 — that the peak of her fame had been in the 1940s. So Gene wasn’t the answer.

But you know who was? The adopted daughter of the infamous politician Joseph McCarthy. (This makes Tierney a celebrity baby name, essentially.)

In early 1957, the Wisconsin senator (and zealous communist hunter) and his wife Jean adopted a five-week old baby girl from the New York Foundling Home. They named her Tierney Elizabeth.

Tierney’s first name came from Joe’s mom Bridget Tierney McCarthy; her middle name came from Jean’s mom Elizabeth Fraser Kerr. The name Tierney is based on the Irish surname Ó Tíghearnaigh, meaning “descendant of Tighearnach,” and the byname Tighearnach is based on the Old Irish word tigern, meaning “lord, master.”

The McCarthys brought Tierney home to Washington, D.C., on January 13. The same day, Joseph “announced over a nationwide television program [Press Conference on ABC] that he was a brand new father and invited photographers to his home for a preview of the new arrival.”

A second unfortunate event that gave the name another round of exposure was Joseph McCarthy’s death in May — a mere four months after the adoption. In fact, some newspapers (including the New York Daily News) re-ran the baby photos of Tierney alongside McCarthy’s obituary.

…Despite all this, I’m still left wondering about Gene Tierney’s influence. While she clearly didn’t inspire the debut, she had given the surname Tierney a strong feminine association. Was she the reason why the McCarthys opted for Tierney over Elizabeth as the primary name? Hm…

What are your thoughts on the baby name Tierney?

Sources:

  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • “McCarthy Blasts Eisenhower Palace Guard.” Redlands Daily Facts [Redlands, Calif.] 14 Jan. 1957: 9.
  • “Meet Miss McCarthy.” News-Palladium [Benton Harbor, Mich.] 14 Jan. 1957: 3.

P.S. Baby Tierney was in the news at the same time as baby Sindee.

Classics on the Decline: Rebecca, Carol, Susan

girl names falling out of fashion

In last week’s “lowest ever” boy names post, I mentioned that reader Caitlin had shared her research on downward-trending baby names with me recently. While many girl names hit relative lows in 2017, for instance…

  • Sarah, now ranked 62nd — lowest ranking since 1970.
  • Rachel, now ranked 195th — lowest ranking since 1960.
  • Melissa, now ranked 273rd — lowest ranking since 1949.

…a couple of the names on her list, Rebecca and Catherine, hit their “lowest ever” rankings last year. (Plus there was Katherine, a borderline case of a lowest-ever tie.)

So I set out to find other “lowest ever” girl names.

Many of the names I checked (like Clare, Lea, and Bridget) hit a low in 2017, but it wasn’t their all-time low. Many others (like Pauline, Sara, and Mary) hit a low recently, but not as recently as 2017. Still others (like Yvonne) had to be disqualified because, even though they hit their lowest ranking on record in 2017, they didn’t appear in the data for all 138 years (1880-2017)…an issue I didn’t encounter with any of the boy names.

In the end, I was able to add a dozen thirteen names to the list:

  • Ann. Ranked 1,023rd in 2017; peak was 28th in the 1930s.
  • Barbara. Ranked 908th in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1930s/1940s.
  • Carol. Ranked 1,814th in 2017; peak was 4th in the 1940s.
  • Catherine. Ranked 198th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1910s.
  • Celia. Ranked 857th in 2017; peak was 141st in the 1880s.
  • Cynthia. Ranked 637th in 2017; peak was 7th in the 1950s.
  • Elisabeth. Ranked 775th in 2017; peak was 286th in the 2000s.
  • Katherine. Ranked 105th in 2017 + 1938; peak 25th in the 1990s.
  • Kathleen. Ranked 871st in 2017; peak was 9th in the 1940s. (Late addition–thanks Kelly!)
  • Linda. Ranked 708th in 2017; peak was 1st in 1940s/1950s.
  • Priscilla. Ranked 527th in 2017; peak was 127th in the 1940s.
  • Rebecca. Ranked 216th in 2017; peak was 10th in the 1970s.
  • Rosa. Ranked 672nd in 2017; peak was 52nd in the 1880s.
  • Susan. Ranked 963rd in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1950s/1960s.
  • Teresa. Ranked 720th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1960s.
  • Tressa. Ranked 9242nd in 2017; peak was 761st in the 1960s.

That makes 15 (or 16, if you count Katherine). I certainly could have missed a few, though, so if you can think of a good candidate, please let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look.

Popular Baby Names in Sonoma County, CA, 2017

Sonoma_CountyAccording to the government of Sonoma, California, the most popular baby names in the county in 2017 were Mia and and Mateo.

Here are Sonoma’s top 5 girl names and top 5 boy names of 2017:

Girl Names
1. Mia, 33 baby girls
2. Olivia, 32
3. Sophia, 26
4. Charlotte, 19
5. Scarlett, 17

Boy Names
1. Mateo, 34 baby boys
2. Oliver, 25
3. Julian, 23
4. William, 22
5. Sebastian, 21

And here are some of the baby names from the other end of the list. Each of these was bestowed just once in Sonoma in 2017:

Unique Girl Names Unique Boy Names
Azul Estrella, Bridget, Cardiff, Dottie, Ember, Florence, Gitselle, Hanen, Inii, Jazbel, Kova, Lennica, Mala Solara, Nelle, Opal, Pema, Rumi, Sabina, Tinsel, Vincere, Winslow, Yissel, Zahra Achilleon, Bremm, Cavendish, Dorsett, Elon, Fynn, Gradius, Hiroki, Ikaikaokalani, Jamokie, Kadessen, Larkin, Mazlo, Norrin, Onkar, Paul, Rhone, Suliano, Toby, Vyndel, Westley, Yoah, Zedrick

The top names in 2016 were Emma and Mateo.

Source: SoCo Data

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

Popular Baby Names in Providence, RI, 1866

providenceLast month we looked at the top Providence names of 1867, so today let’s check out the rankings from the year before — 1866.

First, some stats:

  • 1,633 babies were babies were born in Providence in 1866, by my count. (The number given by the author of the document is 1,632.)
  • 1,457 of these babies (707 girls and 750 boys) had names that were registered with the government at the time of publication. The other 176 babies got blank spaces.
  • 234 unique names (123 girl names and 108 boy names) were shared among these 1,457 babies.

And here’s some extra information I forgot to mention in the last post: In 1860, the city of Providence was home to 29.0% of Rhode Island’s population. In 1870, it was home to 31.7% of the population. So each of these 3 sets of rankings (1866, 1867, 1868) ought to account for roughly 30% of the residents of the state.

Now, on to the names…

Top 5

The top 5 girl names and boy names of 1866 were, unsurprisingly, very similar to the top names of 1867.

Top Baby Girl Names Top Baby Boy Names
1. Mary
2. Catherine
3. Ellen
4. Margaret
5. Sarah
1. John
2. William
3. James
4. George
5. Thomas

The girls’ top 5 is identical, while the boys’ top 5 includes Thomas instead of George.

Girl Names

As expected, Mary was the front-runner by a huge margin. And, while there were dozens of Catherines, and a single Catharine, there weren’t any Katherines.

  1. Mary, 149 baby girls
  2. Catherine, 43
  3. Ellen, 40
  4. Margaret, 37
  5. Sarah, 36
  6. Elizabeth, 32
  7. Alice, 18
  8. Annie, 15
  9. Anna & Eliza, 14 each (2-way tie)
  10. Clara, 13
  11. Ann, 11
  12. Carrie, Emma, Jane & Susan, 10 each (4-way tie)
  13. Grace & Ida, 9 each (2-way tie)
  14. Esther, Martha & Minnie, 7 each (3-way tie)
  15. Anne & Julia, 6 each (2-way tie)
  16. Agnes, Charlotte, Cora, Harriet, Jennie, Joanna, Maria & Rosanna, 5 each (8-way tie)
  17. Amelia, Bridget, Ella, Frances, Hattie, Lydia, Nellie & Theresa, 4 each (8-way tie)
  18. Abby, Emily, Florence, Josephine, Laura, Lillian, Lizzie, Louise & Marion, 3 each (9-way tie)
  19. Ada, Amy, Augusta, Deborah, Edith, Etta, Eva, Fannie, Georgianna, Hannah, Henrietta, Honora, Isabel, Isabella, Lottie, Lucy, Mabel, Marietta, Maud & Teresa, 2 each (20-way tie)
  20. Almira, Annette, Bertha, Catharine, Cedelia, Celia, Christina, Delia, Diana, Dora, Dorcas, Eldora, Eleanor, Elsie, Emeline, Etherine, Eugenie, Evangeline, Fanny, Flora, Geneva, Georgia, Gracie, Helen, Helena, Imogene, Janette, Jessie, Kate, Lena, Louisa, Lucia, Lucinda, Madelina, Marian, Marsalin, May, Millie, Mina, Mini, Minna, Neatah, Nettie, Phebe, Rebecca, Rosa, Roselia, Rosetta, Ruth, Sophia, Stella, Susanna, Susannah, Tillie & Winnifred, 1 each (55-way tie)

Boy Names

John had an even more commanding lead in 1866 than in 1867.

  1. John, 109 baby boys
  2. William, 78
  3. James, 62
  4. George, 44
  5. Thomas, 41
  6. Charles, 36
  7. Edward, 28
  8. Joseph, 27
  9. Frederick, 20
  10. Henry, 18
  11. Frank, 17
  12. Michael, 15
  13. Francis, 14
  14. Daniel, 13
  15. Albert, Patrick & Robert, 12 each (3-way tie)
  16. Walter, 11
  17. Arthur, Peter & Samuel, 8 each (3-way tie)
  18. Alfred, Harry, Louis & Stephen, 7 each (4-way tie)
  19. Martin, 6
  20. Matthew, 5
  21. Christopher, Clarence, Herbert, Howard & Hugh, 4 each (5-way tie)
  22. Benjamin, Eugene, Ira & Jeremiah, 3 each (4-way tie)
  23. Aaron, Alvin, Arnold, Earl, Edgar, Elisha, Freddie, Harrison, Lewis, Marcus, Nicholas, Philip, Richard & Timothy, 2 each (14-way tie)
  24. Abner, Adam, Adolph, Alanson, Alden, Ambrose, Antonio, August, Augustavus*, Augustus, Bartholomew, Bernard, Bradford, Byron, Chauncey, Clinton, David, Duncan, Eben, Ebenezer, Edwin, Elias, Elliott, Ethan, Everett, Ezra, Ferdinand, Frederic, Fullerton, Gilbert, Gwynn, Harold, Herman, Isaac, Jesse, Josiah, Lauriston, Luther, Manuel, Marks, Maurice, Miles, Mortimer, Oliver, Olney, Oscar, Otto, Rana, Rectol, Salisbury, Shamball, Simon, Terence, Theodore, Victor, Willard, Willie & Wilton, 1 each (58-way tie)

(I didn’t combine any variant spellings, but I did lump the abbreviated names Chas., Benj., and Fred’k in with Charles, Benjamin and Frederick.)

*Does Augustavus = Augustus + Gustav, I wonder?

Twins

I counted 19 pairs of twins born in Providence in 1866. I didn’t notice any triplets this year. (All of these names have already been accounted for above.)

Twins (b/b) Twins (b/g) Twins (g/g)
Edgar & Oscar
Edward & James
Francis & James
James & John
John & Thomas
(blank) & (blank)
Frederick & Alice
John & Alice
Samuel & Sarah
Stephen & Annie
(blank) & Catherine
Agnes & Anna
Eldora & Ellen
Eliza & Mary
Elizabeth & Julia
Frances & Mary
Josephine & Mary
Mary & Sarah
Theresa & (blank)

I’ll try to finish/post the final set of rankings before the end of the year.

Source: Snow, Edwin M. Alphabetical Lists of Persons Deceased, Born and Married in the City of Providence During the Year 1866. Providence: Hammond, Angell & Co., 1867.