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

The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.


Popularity of the Baby Name Ulysses


Posts that Mention the Name Ulysses

Civil War Baby Names – Lincoln, Grant, Elmer

Elmer E Ellsworth
Elmer E. Ellsworth

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.

Name1841-501851-601861-701871-80
Abraham:
Lincoln:
78
x
89
11
105
35
83
x
Jefferson:
Davis:
24
10
26
12
74
25
38
x
Ulysses:
Grant:
x
x
x
x
15
94
10
43
Robert:
Lee:
349
15
602
33
887
109
1,268
104
William:
Sherman:
1,732
x
3,114
x
4,704
70
5,693
30
Elmer:
Ellsworth:
x
x
24
x
232
21
161
x

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:

 1841-501851-601861-701871-80
Elmer:
Ellsworth:
767
55
2,686
128
21,464
2,516
16,848
878

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:

 1841-501851-601861-701871-80
William:
Sherman:
203,072
305
313,786
523
413,820
7,864
451,502
3,151

Robert & Lee:

 1841-501851-601861-701871-80
Robert:
Lee:
38,445
3,423
57,213
6,171
83,640
17,930
109,409
25,661

Ulysses & Grant:

 1841-501851-601861-701871-80
Ulysses:
Grant:
49
209
63
324
2,003
11,819
811
5,309

Jefferson & Davis:

 1841-501851-601861-701871-80
Jefferson:
Davis:
2,020
718
3,109
1,094
7,075
2,356
3,270
1,713

Abraham & Lincoln:

 1841-501851-601861-701871-80
Abraham:
Lincoln:
4,411
74
5,071
663
7,951
4,292
5,482
620

If anyone has any tips on using the U.S. census to get relatively accurate data on first names (only), I’m all ears!

Baby Name Needed – What Do You Think of Phineas?

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:

Amos
Barnabas
Baxter
Ephraim
Ezra
Felix
Horatio
Humphrey
Lazarus
Matthias
Maximilian
Moses
Peregrine
Ralph
Raphael
Rufus
Silas
Simeon
Ulysses
Zephaniah

And some girl names:

Clotilde
Cybele
Daphne
Dagny
Delphine
Drusilla
Esther
Fabiola
Georgia
Josephine
Lucretia
Ophelia
Penelope
Phyllis
Ruth
Salome
Seraphina
Talulla
Tryphena
Verena

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.

Baby Names Needed – Whimsical, Weird Names for Quadruplets

Estelle wrote to me recently with a tall order:

I’m having quads (!!!) in 4 weeks and I need names! I’m having one boy and three girls. My 4 year old son’s name is Cosmo. My husband and I like spacey, whimsical and weird names.

In fact, they “don’t have any limits on how weird a name can be.”

One girl name they’re considering is Ione, which is a family name.

The combination of Cosmo and the adjective “spacey” made me think of star and constellation names right off the bat:

Adhara
Aldebaran
Altair
Aludra
Antares
Antlia
Aquarius
Aquila
Aries
Auriga
Azha
Carina
Corvus
Cygnus
Deneb
Denebola
Hamal
Kastra
Lacerta
Libra
Lyra
Meissa
Musca
Nashira
Norma
Orion
Pavo
Polaris
Rana
Rigel
Shaula
Sheratan
Sirius
Sirrah
Suhail
Taurus
Thuban
Vega
Vela

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:

Allegra
Althea
Apollonia
Artemis
Aurora
Briony
Calypso
Clio
Danae
Demetria
Echo
Eulalia
Freya
Hestia
Imelda
Imogen
Isis
Lucasta
Luna
Jonquil
Minerva
Olympia
Rhea
Sapphira
Severina
Ursula
Vita
Xanthe
Zelda
Zenobia

Those were the girl names, these are the boy names:

Agni
Aldous
Barnaby
Casper
Cyril
Elan
Evander
Erasmus
Fabio
Gideon
Horatio
Ignatius
Isidore
Jethro
Leander
Loki
Magnus
Milo
Nigel
Odin
Pascal
Peregrine
Reuben
Rémy
Silas
Taliesin
Theron
Tycho
Ulysses
Zenon

What other whimsical names can you come up with for Estelle? And, can you put together any good combinations of 1 boy and 3 girl names?

Update: The babies have arrived! Scroll down to see what names Estelle selected.

Baby Name Needed – Boy or Girl Name for Aspen’s Sibling

A reader named Kendra, who has a daughter named Aspen, is now expecting a second baby (gender unknown). She’d like the baby’s first name to:

  • Be “different yet familiar”
  • Be easy to spell
  • Start with something other than A, K or M
  • End with something other than A or N

She’d like the middle name to start with J. Current favorites for the middle spot are Jacob, Johnmichael (a family name), Jenai and Jane.

For first names, I think occupational and locational names would be a good place to start:

Bailey
Carter
Chase
Cooper
Finley
Fisher
Fletcher
Harper
Hunter
Marley
Parker
Piper
Presley
Ridley
Ripley
Roscoe
Ryder
Sawyer
Slater
Tanner
Tatum
Taylor
Tucker
Turner
Thatcher
Tyler
Wesley

They are rooted in the physical (as Aspen is), but they won’t lock Kendra into noun-names (as names like Sage or Willow would). Most are also theoretically gender-neutral — again, like Aspen — though in real life they tend to be used for either one gender or the other.

These names also came to mind:

  • Bryce, Cody, Cole, Max, Rory, Royce, Ryker, and Ulysses for boys,
  • Carley, Chloe, Daphne, and Heidi for girls, and
  • Cassidy and Emery for either boys or girls.

(Daphne does refer to another kind of tree, but the connection is subtle, so I think it would be all right with Aspen.)

It’s tricky to suggest middle names without a definitive first name in place. I do really like Johnmichael and Jane, though. I also thought Kendra might find Jonah, Jett or Jude appealing, as they became fashionable (as first names) right around the same time Aspen did.

Do you like any of the above names? What others would you suggest?

Update – The baby is here! Scroll down to see what name Kendra chose.