In February of 1942, a baby boy was born to Lura and Alfred Bowles of Carswell, West Virginia.
What did they name him?
Larry Allen — after Associated Press war correspondent Laurence Edmund “Larry” Allen, the “sea-going Associated Press war correspondent whose experiences with the British fleet in the Mediterranean [had] thrilled millions of newspaper readers” a month earlier.
Those “blow-by-blow action stories of Mediterranean warfare” were so thrilling in fact that, several months later, 33-year-old Larry Allen won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.
Interestingly, journalist Larry Allen was born (in 1908) with the name Lawrence Finzel. He was named after his father Lawrence Finzel, a “world champion coal miner.” As a teenager, “[d]etermined to carve out his own unique identity,” he altered the spelling of his first name. Sometime in the 1930s, after working in newspapers for several years, he changed his name again — adopting the surname Allen, and publishing stories under the nom de plume “Larry Allen.” (I’m not sure if the middle name Edmund was given at birth or added later on.)
Years ago, I discovered three documents with relatively complete lists of births for the city of Providence, Rhode Island, for the years 1866, 1867, and 1868. I’ve already created Providence’s baby name rankings for 1866 and 1867 using the first two documents, and today (finally!) I’ve got the third set of rankings for you.
Let’s start with some stats:
1,762 babies were born in Providence in 1868, by my count. According to the introduction of the document I’m using a source, however, the total number is 1,866. I don’t know how to account for this discrepancy.
1,617 of these babies (791 girls and 826 boys) had names that were known at the time of publication. The other 145 babies got blank spaces. Either their names hadn’t been registered yet, or they hadn’t been named yet, or perhaps these babies died young and never received a name.
284 unique names (143 girl names and 141 boy names) were shared among these 1,617 babies.
And now, on to the names!
A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1868:
Top baby girl names
Top baby boy names
1. Mary 2. Catherine 3. Sarah 4. Ellen 5. Margaret
1. John 2. William 3. James 4. Charles 5. George
All Girl Names
Mary, 149 baby girls
Clara & Martha, 11 each (tie)
Hannah & Lucy, 10 each (tie)
Bridget, Grace, Jennie, Julia & Maria, 9 each (5-way tie)
Annie, Florence, Jane, Minnie & Susan, 8 each (5-way tie)
Agnes, Caroline, Cora, Ella & Harriet, 7 each (5-way tie)
A while back, I stumbled upon a register of people associated with Oxford University in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The most interesting part? The author of the register included a chapter dedicated to first names and surnames, and that chapter featured a table of male forenames ranked by frequency of occurrence from 1560 to 1621.
The author claimed that, for several reasons, these rankings were “probably…more representative of English names than any list yet published” for that span of time. One reason was that the names represented men from “different grades of English society” — including peers, scholars, tradesmen, and servants.
Ready for the list?
John, 3,826 individuals
Ralph (sometimes confused with Raphael/Randall in the records), 182
Matthew (sometimes confused with Matthias), 116
Alexander, 98 (tie)
Arthur, 98 (tie)
Simon (sometimes confused with Simeon), 83
Joseph, 78 (tie)
Lewis, 78 (tie)
Roland (also Rowland), 65
Griffith (also Griffin), 60
Abraham, 54 (tie)
Leonard, 54 (tie)
Morris (sometimes confused with Maurice), 51
Bartholomew, 46 (3-way tie)
Oliver, 46 (3-way tie)
Timothy, 46 (3-way tie)
Martin, 44 (tie)
Rice (sometimes confused with Richard), 44 (tie)
Jeffrey (also Geoffrey; sometimes confused with Godfrey), 38
Toby (also Tobias), 34
Bernard, 28 (3-way tie)
Gregory (sometimes confused with George), 28 (3-way tie)
Isaac, 28 (3-way tie)
Jasper (also Gaspar), 26
Randall (also Randle, Randolph; sometimes confused with Ralph), 26 (tie)
Did the relative popularity of any of these names surprise you?
Entries lower down on the list included Lancelot (23), Jarvis (22) Theophilus (19), Marmaduke (18), Fulke (17), and Cadwalader (9).
The author also included every other Oxford-associated name from that general time period, so here’s a sampling of the rare names that popped up in the register just once:
Daniel, Dionis, Peter, Stephen, Judith, Susanna, Anna, Mehitable, Hepzibah, Paul
Which of the above names do you like best? Are there any you don’t like at all?
*Dionis’s name is evidently a truncated form of Dionysia, which derives from Dionysius, which originally referred to a devotee of the Greek god Dionysos. The names Dennis and Denise are also derivatives of Dionysius.
**Nantucket’s Oldest House, also called the Jethro Coffin House, was built in 1686 as a wedding gift for Jethro Coffin.
Looking for a surname-inspired baby name with a connection to Catholicism?
Here are more than 200 options, most of which come from Catholic Englishmen martyred during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Because the goal was to include as many realistic baby names as possible, I interpreted “surname” and “saint” liberally in some cases. Xavier is not technically a surname, for instance, and many of the folks below are not yet full-fledged saints.
The hyperlinked names will take you to popularity graphs.