Mystery baby name: Memory

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

Memory, like several of the baby names in this mystery series, comes from a vocabulary word. This makes it notoriously hard to trace.

To add another wrinkle, Memory’s debut in the SSA data in 1922 was a rare dual-gender debut:

  • 1925: 8 baby girls named Memory
  • 1924: 6 baby girls named Memory
  • 1923: unlisted
  • 1922: 11 baby girls and 6 baby boys named Memory [debut]
  • 1921: unlisted
  • 1920: unlisted

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) data shows a distinct uptick in usage the same year:

  • 1925: 6 people with the first name Memory
  • 1924: 2 people with the first name Memory
  • 1923: 6 people with the first name Memory
  • 1922: 9 people with the first name Memory
  • 1921: 3 people with the first name Memory
  • 1920: 3 people with the first name Memory

Do you have any idea what gave the name Memory a boost back in the early ’20s? If so, leave a comment!

10 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Memory

  1. Since Cats wasn’t performed before 1980, I have nothing helpful to offer. But that doesn’t stop me from having its main song becoming an ear worm in my head!

  2. Same for me when I was writing this! Haha.

    (Also, I’ve found a handful of people named Grizabella, about half born in Scotland…)

  3. From our site, it seems to be linked to the name Fortunate – the only time Fortunate registers in your numbers is in 1922.

    Also Memory is interesting as it has some other peaks – especially 1946. But nothing conclusive, sorry.

  4. That’s really interesting about the name Fortunate. When you say “seems to be linked to,” do you mean an historical link, or a link in the sense that people who searched for one name also tended to search for the other, or something else…?

  5. Sorry I can’t solve the mystery of Memory. But I was just reading an article saying that about 70% of movies from the silent era have been completely lost to history.

    I wondered if that might help explain some of the “mystery names” from around the 1920s – could any of them be from one of the thousands of lost movies?

  6. That’s a really interesting idea, Anna.

    We do still have information on many lost films — the footage itself may be gone/destroyed, but related things (posters, newspaper ads, reviews, etc.) have survived. I don’t know if this is true for all lost films, though. Hm…

  7. I think the article said there were around 11 000 silent films, and we have around 3 000 of them. No mention of reviews etc, but the impression I gained was that most of the 8000 lost films had completely disappeared from the historical record.

    I can’t find/recall the one I read now, but that’s the gist of it.

    Mary Pickford paid to preserve her films: smart cookie.

  8. Yes, very smart on her part.

    You’re probably right that most of the films considered lost today really are lost entirely.

    We do have records for some (like the ones on Wikipedia’s List of lost films page) but I’m not sure what proportion.

    I can only hope that any film that was once popular enough to inspire baby names would be remembered today, even if the footage has since been lost.

  9. I found a silent film called Jacques of the Silver North that has a character named Memory (played by the awesomely stage-named Fritzi Brunette), but it’s from 1919 and doesn’t explain the 1922 debut.

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