The name Fiona — coined during the 18th century by Scottish poet James Macpherson, who based it on the Irish word fionn (“white, fair”) — is relatively common in the U.S. these days. Rank-wise, it’s been hovering around 200th place for the last few years.
But — like Siobhan, Maeve, Bronwen, and many other Celtic names — it didn’t arrive with the immigrants. Instead, it was introduced to America later on, via pop culture.
Fiona first popped up in the data in 1942, and it stuck around for several years:
1944: 7 baby girls named Fiona
1943: 19 baby girls named Fiona
1942: 9 baby girls named Fiona [debut]
What boosted it onto the charts that initial time?
The movie The Gay Sisters, which came out in August of 1942. The main characters were the three Gaylord sisters/heiresses: Fiona, Evelyn, and Susanna. Fiona, the eldest sister, was played by popular actress Barbara Stanwyck (birth name Ruby Catherine Stevens). The film didn’t do well at the box office, but it clearly had an impact on expectant parents.
The movie was based on the book of the same name by Stephen Longstreet. Longstreet was also the writer behind Stallion Road, which was similarly made into a movie and introduced audiences to a woman named Rory (traditionally a male name) later in the ’40s.
On August 21, the United States will see its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1918. If you’re planning to have — or conceive! — a baby around the time of the eclipse, you might be interested in a name that marks the event (but that isn’t as audacious as Eclipse itself). So what are your options?
Names with “celestial” associations
A solar eclipse involves the alignment of three celestial bodies — the sun (a star), the moon, and the Earth — in the sky. You could use a name that is associated in some way with one of these elements, such as…
The main event, from an Earthling’s perspective, is the darkening of the sun thanks to the moon getting in the way and casting its shadow over us. You could use a name associated in some way with darkness, such as…
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…
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
The girls’ top 5 is identical, while the boys’ top 5 includes Thomas instead of George.
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.
Mary, 149 baby girls
Anna & Eliza, 14 each (2-way tie)
Carrie, Emma, Jane & Susan, 10 each (4-way tie)
Grace & Ida, 9 each (2-way tie)
Esther, Martha & Minnie, 7 each (3-way tie)
Anne & Julia, 6 each (2-way tie)
Agnes, Charlotte, Cora, Harriet, Jennie, Joanna, Maria & Rosanna, 5 each (8-way tie)
Speaking of names in Boston Graveyards…I recently discovered a cool pair of books containing old Boston birth records from 1630 (the year Boston was founded) to just beyond 1800.
The records aren’t perfect/complete, but they’re good enough to determine the top names from year to year. So here’s an overview of the top 3 baby names per gender from 1640 to 1740 in 20-year increments:
(50 babies accounted for; total Boston population 1,200.)
Girl Names, 1640
Boy Names, 1640
1. Elizabeth (8)
2. Hannah & Mary (4 ea.)
3. Sarah (2)
1. John (7)
2. Samuel (4)
3. Deliverance, Elisha, Jonathan & Thomas (2 ea.)
(135 babies accounted for; total Boston population 3,000.)
Girl Names, 1660
Boy Names, 1660
1. Elizabeth & Sarah (12 ea.)
2. Mary (11)
3. Hannah (8)
1. John (15)
2. Joseph, Thomas & William (4 ea.)
3. Edward, Richard, Samuel & Timothy (3 ea.)
(174 babies accounted for; total Boston population 4,500.)
Girl Names, 1680
Boy Names, 1680
1. Elizabeth (17)
2. Mary (14)
3. Sarah (12)
1. John (21)
2. William (8)
3. Thomas (7)
(219 babies accounted for; total Boston population 6,700.)
Girl Names, 1700
Boy Names, 1700
1. Mary (23)
2. Elizabeth (18)
3. Ann, Sarah & Susanna (8 ea.)
1. John (31)
2. Thomas (15)
3. Benjamin, Joseph, Samuel & William (9 ea.)
(282 babies accounted for; total Boston population 11,000.)
Girl Names, 1720
Boy Names, 1720
1. Mary (31)
2. Elizabeth (26)
3. Sarah (17)
1. John (23)
2. William (18)
3. Samuel (17)
(158 babies accounted for; total Boston population 17,000.)
Girl Names, 1740
Boy Names, 1740
1. Mary (12)
2. Elizabeth (10)
3. Sarah (9)
1. John (14)
2. Joseph (11)
3. Samuel, Thomas & William (9 ea.)
Isn’t it interesting how Mary overtook Elizabeth as the #1 name for girls? The switch happened in the 1680s; Mary had already pulled ahead of Elizabeth by 1690.
The rare names were even more interesting (as usual!) so that’s what I’ll be posting about for the rest of the week, starting with a big list of them tomorrow…