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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Theda

Number of Babies Named Theda

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Theda

The Under-the-Radar Baby Name Francelia

Francelia Billington, 1914
Francelia Billington in Photoplay, 1914
Here’s a rare, old-fashioned name that’s been given two distinct pop culture boosts over the years — one from the movies, one from the weather.

The movie connection is especially interesting because, as far as I can tell, this is probably the first name to debut on the charts thanks to an actress.

Usage of the name Francelia (fran-SEE-lee-ah) goes back to at least the 1700s. The name was most popular in the mid-1800s, especially in the Northeastern U.S. (New York state in particular). It seems to be an elaborated form of Frances (“Frenchman”) influenced by either Celia (“sky, heaven”) or Cecilia (“blind”), or both.

Francelia debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1912, probably thanks to early silent film actress Francelia Billington, who was born in Texas in 1895 and appeared in silent films from 1912 until the mid-1920s (and in a single talkie in 1930).

Francelia Billington wasn’t the first silent film actress to become famous, but she was the first whose name debuted on the national baby name list while she was famous. Several other silent film actresses of the 1910s also had distinctive names (e.g., Alla Nazimova, Theda Bara, Kathlyn Williams) but their names had all been listed since the late 1800s.

The SSA data from the 1910s isn’t super-reliable, so I’ve put both the SSA and the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) numbers side-by-side below. For the SSDI numbers, I only counted people who had Francelia as a first name, not as a middle.

Year SSA SSDI
1908 x 8 Francelias
1909 x 5 Francelias
1910 x 4 Francelias
1911 x 2 Francelias
1912 5 Francelias [debut] 10 Francelias
1913 10 Francelias 10 Francelias
1914 x 5 Francelias
1915 6 Francelias 5 Francelias
1916 14 Francelias 15 Francelias
1917 15 Francelias 12 Francelias
1918 5 Francelias 6 Francelias
1919 5 Francelias 4 Francelias

One of the Francelias above was children’s literature scholar/writer Francelia Butler (née McWilliams) who was born in Ohio in 1913.

The name Francelia has remained rare in the U.S. ever since, though it did see a spike in usage in 1969 thanks to the news of Hurricane Francelia, which hit Central America in early September.

  • 1971: 5 baby girls named Francelia
  • 1970: 10 baby girls named Francelia
  • 1969: 23 baby girls named Francelia (and 8 more named Francellia)
  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: 7 baby girls named Francelia

Francelia’s last appearance on the SSA’s list was in 1998, with just 7 baby girls. (To be included on the list, a name needs to be given to at least 5 babies.)

Do you like the name Francelia? Would you consider using it for a baby girl?


Road Trip Roundup: Mattie, Ellery & Theda

There weren’t many names to be seen/heard among the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone

But I did spot something interesting while flipping though a book at the gift shop near Old Faithful.

The book mentioned the grave of Mattie Culver (1856-1889). It’s one of the few graves located inside the park.

Mattie Culver grave

Mattie, born Martha Jane Shipley, was the tubercular wife of Ellery Channing Culver, the winter caretaker of the Firehole Hotel for the 1888-1889 season. Ellery had hoped the mountain air might improve Mattie’s condition but, unfortunately, it did not. Mattie passed away on March 2, 1889.

What really interested me was the name of their baby girl, Theda (b. 1887). When I saw it, I wondered: was she one of the many Thedas named for silent film star Theda Bara?

Nope, not even close.

Theodosia Goodman, later Theda Bara, was virtually the same age as Theda Culver.

Bara was born in 1885, and didn’t start appearing in films until 1914. The height of her popularity — and, hence, the popularity of her name — came in the late 1910s:

  • 1913: 17 baby girls named Theda
  • 1914: 33 baby girls named Theda
  • 1915: 124 baby girls named Theda
  • 1916: 315 baby girls named Theda
  • 1917: 334 baby girls named Theda
  • 1918: 354 baby girls named Theda
  • 1919: 356 baby girls named Theda
  • 1920: 290 baby girls named Theda
  • 1921: 293 baby girls named Theda
  • 1922: 202 baby girls named Theda

Nowadays, very few babies are named Theda.

Do you think the name will ever make a comeback?

[What’s this road trip all about?]

Names Spotted on Road Trip thru Wild West

I recently got back from a 2-week road trip through South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming:

Nancy's 2012 Roadtrip

(We set off on this one just two days after getting back from Toronto. Why? Insanity, I suppose.)

I spotted a bunch of interesting names on this trip, but instead of one massive post, I thought I’d break it all up into a series of smaller posts.

Here are some of the names I’ll be talking about:

SOUTH DAKOTA

NORTH DAKOTA

MONTANA

WYOMING

I’ll come back and add links as the posts are published. Hope you enjoy!

Baby Name Needed for the Sister of Copeland

A reader named Lisa is expecting her second daughter a couple of weeks and needs some name assistance. Her first daughter is Copeland Rhine. Lisa’s main predicament is this:

[H]ow do I find a strong unique vintage name for this second precious girlie that will not wilt next to a strong name like Copeland Rhine?

And here are some other questions and points Lisa brought up:

  • “Our goal is not to have their names competing for placement but complimenting each other.”
  • “We do not want to be boxed in on unisex or surname first names.”
  • “I have been gravitating towards Sojourner Bliss or Sojourner Mercy (Sophie for short) but that is all I have and my husband is not sold on it nor on a stronger masculine name.”
  • “My husband really loves Evangeline yet he is not wanting to use it because it is becoming so popular. We both love the idea of Evie as a nickname.”
  • “I really want to honor three people in my family but all three would not wish their name on anyone: Leona, Gertrude and Lorraine. Are there any derived names that I could use?” [Other family names she mentioned are Cornelia, Josephine, Ester, Rosemary, Carmelita, Trinia (Trijntje), Johannes, Sophia, Evelientje, Alice (called Ollie), Francis, Felicia and Blanche.]

The baby’s surname will be a 2-syllable name that starts with D and also includes a z-sound. It’s somewhat similar to De Souza.

So the challenge is to find “strong unique vintage” names that work with Copeland, but that won’t lock Lisa’s family into surnames or unisex names. And to try to get a family connection in there as well.

I think Evangeline is a great idea, actually. It’s strong, vintage, and neither a surname nor a unisex name. And both Lisa and her husband like the nickname Evie. Seems like the only thing holding them back is the popularity.

Yes, Evangeline has become slightly popular recently. It’s been back in the top 1,000 since 2006. But let’s put that into context. Over 2,000,000 baby girls were born last year, and only 735 of them were named Evangeline. That’s a very small percentage. (But if it’s really that bothersome, there’s always Evangelina, which is still well out of the top 1,000.)

I’m not a big fan of Sojourner. It’s strong, and unique, and not a surname…but it’s not feminine, and it’s not what I’d call vintage, even if Sojourner Truth was a well-known 19th-century woman. I’d worry about teasing, especially with a noun-middle like Bliss or Mercy. And I think naming a third child (of either gender) after Copeland and Sojourner would be tricky.

Sophie seems like it would be an awkward nickname for Sojourner. It’s so different from Sojourner that it strikes me as more of a cover-name than a nickname–as if Sojourner were just too strong or strange to work as an everyday name.

Leona, Gertrude and Lorraine…the most interesting way I could think of to combine them was to look for names that feature their first letters (L, G, L) such as Nigella, Allegra and Gillian.

Here are a few other name ideas that came to mind:

Acacia
Adelaide
Amandine
Anais
Anneliese
Antonia
Aquila
Artemis
Astrid
Augusta
Aurelia
Aurora
Damaris
Delphina
Demetria
Freya
Ginevra
Harriet
Honora
Imogen
Ione
Isadora
Leocadia
Lucasta
Lucretia
Melosa
Merit
Mehetabel
Minerva
Morgana
Muriel
Nelle
Penelope
Petra
Sophronia
Sunniva
Theodosia/Theda
Thora
Venetia
Vera

Some are related to the family names Lisa mentioned (e.g. Adelaide/Alice, Sophronia/Sophia).

Which of the above names do you like best for the sister of Copeland? What other names would you suggest to Lisa?

Baby Name Needed – Girl Name for Baby #4

A reader named Lynn has three children named Aidan Michael, Sophie Alice and August Gabriel. She’s expecting her fourth baby in late September. She’s already picked out a boy name (Jude), but would like some help coming up with a girl name.

What is she looking for? “We love old names. We love names that aren’t duplicated in every classroom.” Right now, the top contenders are Lucy, Daisy and Celia.

She also notes that, when she chose Aidan for her eldest, the name wasn’t yet trendy. “It was an old-fashioned Irish saint! Now you seriously can’t swing a cat in our town without hitting a (non-Irish) Aidan.”

Here are a few girl names I think Lynn might like:

Cecile/Cecilia
Celeste
Clara
Coral
Corinne
Delia
Della
Edith
Eliza
Esther
Flora
Frances
Greta
Harriet
Helen
Irene
Josephine (Josie)
Louise/Louisa
Lucia
Margaret (Maggie)
Maura
Molly
Mona
Myra
Nicola
Norma
Opal
Orla
Pauline
Petra
Rhea
Rhona
Rosie
Theda
Thora
Vera

Some of the names in yesterday’s post on girl names that go with Edie might also work for Lynn’s family. (In fact, I used several again in this post.)

Which of the above do you like best with Aidan, Sophie and August? What other names would you suggest to Lynn?

Baby Name Needed – Name for Henry & Anneliese’s Little Sister

A reader named Jennifer is looking for a female name for her third child:

Our other children are named Henry and Anneliese. I would love to use the middle name Lynne but that is not set in stone.

Here are a few ideas:

Beatrix
Charlotte
Clara
Dorothy
Elizabeth
Greta
Josephine
Katharina/Katherine
Margaret
Marlene
Mathilde/Matilda
Miriam
Philippa
Ramona
Rosalind
Rosemary
Theodora/Theda
Susanna

Several of the above wouldn’t work too well with Lynne, but I think they all sound nice with both Henry and Anneliese.

What other names would you guys suggest?

Update: The baby is here! Scroll down to find out what name Jennifer chose.