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
Today is not just the anniversary of the first manned space flight. It’s also the anniversary of the start of the Civil War. (They were exactly 100 years apart, in fact.)
I’ve seen military names catch on as baby names during times of war, so I was curious to know if this had happened during the Civil War. The problem? The war ended in 1865, so all that easy-to-access SSA data, which only dates back to 1880, wouldn’t be of any help.
But census data would work. And economist Douglas Galbi has made things easy for me: he’s used 19th-century census data to come up with lists of popular given names, sorted by decade of birth. Talk about convenient.
Using only data from the 1880 census, I looked up the following Civil War-related names:
Abraham & Lincoln – Abraham Lincoln was the leader of the Union
Jefferson & Davis – Jefferson Davis was the leader of the Confederacy
Ulysses & Grant – Ulysses S Grant commanded the Union Army at the end of the war
Robert & Lee – Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate Army at the end of the war
William & Sherman – William T. Sherman was a Union general
Elmer & Ellsworth – Elmer E. Ellsworth was an early Union casualty
Here’s what I found. An x indicates “fewer than ten.” Also, keep in mind that the number of births overall increased significantly from decade to decade — 20,862 the first decade, 36,188 the second, 48,000 the third and 64,041 the fourth.
So it seems as though the Civil War did indeed give certain names a boost.
I was most surprised by Elmer. Elmer E. Ellsworth, though not well-known nowadays, captured the nation’s attention in early days of the war. He was killed in mid-1861 while trying to confiscate a Confederate flag. Here’s how the NYT ended Ellsworth’s obituary:
He has been assassinated! His murder was fearfully and speedily revenged. He has lived a brief but an eventful, a public and an honorable life. His memory will be revered, his name respected, and long after the rebellion shall have become a matter of history, his death will be regarded as a martyrdom, and his name will be enrolled upon the list of our country’s patriots.
According to Wikipedia, Ellsworth’s death inspired thousands of men to enlist. His many namesakes include U.S. Commissioner of Education Elmer Ellsworth Brown (1861-1934), artist Elmer Ellsworth Garnsey (1862-1964), Minnesota legislator Elmer Ellsworth Adams (1861-1950), and pro baseball player Elmer Ellsworth “Mike” Smith (1868-1945).
Source: “Obituary; Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth.” New York Times 25 May 1861.
UPDATE, 6/15/15: Turns out that the data I used for this post isn’t so reliable after all. (See the comments here for specifics.)
So here are some new numbers — basically, search “hits” for these names on the 1880 Census (via FamilySearch) grouped by birth year. These aren’t perfect either, but I think they’re an improvement.
Let’s go backwards…
Elmer & Ellsworth:
And here are the year-by-year “hits” on Elmer specifically:
1856: 236 babies named Elmer
1857: 259 babies named Elmer
1858: 325 babies named Elmer
1859: 388 babies named Elmer
1860: 605 babies named Elmer
1861: 2,533 babies named Elmer
1862: 3,964 babies named Elmer
1863: 2,665 babies named Elmer
1864: 2,097 babies named Elmer
1865: 1,617 babies named Elmer
William & Sherman:
Robert & Lee:
Ulysses & Grant:
Jefferson & Davis:
Abraham & Lincoln:
If anyone has any tips on using the U.S. census to get relatively accurate data on first names (only), I’m all ears!
A reader named Virginia is expecting a baby in September. For a boy, she’d selected the name Phineas. She liked “that it was unusual without being bizarre,” and that it started with ph. But now she’s not so sure about the name:
All was fine and dandy until I read an article about violence in the Bible. It vaguely mentioned Phineas as a name from the Bible used as a talisman by white supremacists. What!?!
That was a shock to me too. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Phineas Priesthood is “a violent credo of vengeance that has gained some popularity among white supremacists and other extremists in recent years.” I’d never heard of the Phineas Priesthood before–not even when Julia Roberts named her son Phinnaeus a few years ago.
Virginia doesn’t want to give up her favorite name, but she also “can’t live with such an association,” so she was hoping for some name suggestions. Other names she’s considering include Joel and Samuel (for boys) and Sigrid, Phoebe, Elisabeth, and Anne (for girls). All are family names.
First, a few thoughts:
I doubt many people are aware that white supremacists use Phineas as a code word. It’s an odious association, but maybe it’s also obscure enough that it’s not worth worrying about…?
I really like Sigrid and Phoebe–they’re both significant and unusual. Especially Sigrid. (Phoebe is being used more and more every year, so it might not be unusual for long.)
And now, name suggestions. Here are some unusual-but-not-bizarre boy names that I think Virginia might like:
And some girl names:
What other names would you suggest to Virginia? (And, what’s your take on the Phineas dilemma?)
Update: The baby has arrived! Click here to learn the baby’s name.
One nice thing about these is that several together probably wouldn’t scream “star names” to the average person. Unlike, say, a group of flower names. (Though I’m sure stargazers would catch on pretty quickly.)
And here’s what we have for non-galactic suggestions: