Crown Prince Gustaf VI of Sweden welcomed a baby boy named Bertil in early 1912.
The same year Prince Bertil was born, the baby name Bertil appeared in the U.S. baby name data:
- 1914: 31 baby boys named Bertil
- 1913: 17 baby boys named Bertil
- 1912: 16 baby boys named Bertil [debut]
- 1911: unlisted
- 1910: unlisted
Bertil was the second-highest debut that year, after Woodroe (inspired by Woodrow Wilson, who was elected president in November).
But the early SSA numbers tend to be low, so here’s some SSDI data for a different perspective. (I’m only counting people with the first name Bertil, and I’m ignoring the feminine variants Bertille and Bertilla.)
- 1914: 51 people named Bertil born
- 1913: 37 people named Bertil born
- 1912: 40 people named Bertil born
- 1911: 19 people named Bertil born
- 1910: 32 people named Bertil born
Just about all of the surnames I saw for Bertils in the SSDI were Swedish. Even more interesting, the SSA data indicates that many of these Bertils were born in Minnesota, Illinois and Massachusetts — states with large Swedish communities:
By 1910 the position of the Midwest as a place of residence for the Swedish immigrants and their children was still strong, but had weakened. Fifty-four percent of the Swedish immigrants and their children now lived in these states, with Minnesota and Illinois dominating. Fifteen percent lived in the East, where the immigrants were drawn to industrial areas in New England. New York City and Worcester, Massachusetts, were two leading destinations.
I think it’s safe to conclude that this usage of Bertil was occurring among Swedish immigrants (and their descendants) exclusively.
So what’s the etymology of Bertil? The Handbook of Scandinavian Names says Bertil and Bertel (which debuted the very next year) are “forms of the first element in German names like Berthold, from bert ‘bright, shining.’ Behind the Name simply says Bertil is a form of Berthold, meaning “bright ruler.”
Surprisingly, Bertil isn’t the first U.S. baby name debut we can link to Swedish royalty. Ebba, which debuted in 1888, was inspired by Princess Ebba Bernadotte — baby Bertil’s great aunt.
- Bertil – Behind the Name
- Coleman, Nancy L., and Olav Veka. A Handbook of Scandinavian Names. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.
- Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland
- Swedish Immigration to North America – Augustana College