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
That 1803 law has an interesting history, complete with ties to the French Revolution.
In September of 1792, one day before the French National Convention abolished the monarchy, a decree was issued. The decree allowed the citizens of France to change their forenames quite easily–all they had to do was “make a simple formal declaration before the registrar of their local municipality.”
Many people took advantage of this decree and chose new names with a revolutionary flavor, such as:
These patriotic name-changes happened mostly in “urban areas, and particularly those, like Rouen, where Revolutionary fervour was intense.”
But, apparently, they got out of hand.
A decade later, a law was written that restricted French given names to “names used in various calendars” (that is, Catholic saint names) and “names of persons known from ancient history.” In essence, the law was meant to “put an end to citizens bearing absurd names that signified inanimate objects, forms of vegetation, membership of the animal kingdom and abstract concepts.”
….And this was the law that gave the Manrot-le Goarnic family so much difficulty when they tried to give their children Breton names a century and a half later.
My wife wanted a unique name and originally I thought of the name Kyle and then she said, ‘No, something more unusual but beautiful.’ Then I remembered the old Superman comics… I wanted a name that stood for something good, was unique and American and that’s all three. I just thought it was a beautiful name and it had kind of a magical ring to it.
I have to remember this the next time I mock a celebrity baby name. Because sometimes it’s not the celebrity but the celebrity’s non-famous significant other who’s pushing for the unusual name.
(Not that Kal-El is all that unusual anymore. It cracked the top 1,000 for the first time in 2009, ranking higher than traditional names like Hugh, Thaddeus, Theo, Harvey, Norman, Lucius, Otis…)