Mystery baby name: Wilba

Graph of the usage of the baby name Wilba in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Wilba

In the early 1900s, the baby name Wilba popped up on the SSA’s baby name list for the first time:

  • 1915: 7 baby girls named Wilba
  • 1914: 7 baby girls named Wilba
  • 1913: 18 baby girls named Wilba [debut]
  • 1912: unlisted
  • 1911: unlisted

It was the top debut name of 1913, along with Vilas. But SSA numbers from the early 1900s aren’t too reliable, so let’s see how many Wilbas are in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for the same time period:

  • 1915: 8 people named Wilba
  • 1914: 7 people named Wilba
  • 1913: 32 people named Wilba
  • 1912: 3 people named Wilba
  • 1911: 4 people named Wilba

The SSA data shows that several wil- names were on the rise during these years, but this doesn’t explain the sudden appearance of Wilba.

Wilbur (f)758

Neither set of data shows a strong tie to any specific location, though the SSDI data suggests that Wilba was used more often in the south than in the north.

Any idea where this one could have come from?

6 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Wilba

  1. Maybe the raise of Melba has something to do with it? Wilba looks like a perfect blend of Melba and the then popular Wil- names.

  2. Wilbur Wright’s death in 1912? Looks like Wilbur began an upswing in those years too… so maybe his death prompted parents to find a feminine form of the name to honor him?

    It’s a stretch, but that was my first thought.

  3. @Julie – That’s an interesting guess! Wilbur Wright died in May of 1912, and the baby name Wilbur certainly saw a jump that year. And it continued rising for several years. I’m not sure if that’s the explanation for Wilba — timing is slightly off — but who knows? If nothing else, Wilbur certainly would have helped set the stage for Wilba. Thanks!

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