How did “Family Affair” influence baby names?

Actress Anissa Jones in the TV series "Family Affair" (1966-1971).
Actress Anissa Jones in “Family Affair

In the TV sitcom Family Affair, which premiered in 1966, a Manhattan bachelor suddenly becomes a father of three when he takes in his late brother’s orphaned children: 15-year-old Cissy and 6-year-old twins Buffy (girl) and Jody (boy).

All of the children’s names — Cissy, Buffy, and Jody — plus variants like Buffie and Jodie — saw higher usage while the show was on the air.

But the name I want to highlight is Anissa — the first name of child actress Anissa Jones, who played pig-tailed Buffy. The name debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1966, skyrocketed into the top 1,000 the next year, and entered the top 500 the year after that:

  • 1972: 459 baby girls were named Anissa [rank: 421st]
  • 1971: 724 baby girls were named Anissa [rank: 348th]
  • 1970: 603 baby girls were named Anissa [rank: 388th]
  • 1969: 607 baby girls were named Anissa [rank: 377th]
  • 1968: 503 baby girls were named Anissa [rank: 417th]
  • 1967: 219 baby girls were named Anissa [rank: 646th]
  • 1966: 23 baby girls were named Anissa [debut]
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: unlisted

Anissa Jones was born Mary Anissa Jones in Indiana in 1958. She was of Lebanese descent, and her middle name was apparently derived from the Arabic male name Anis, meaning “friend.” She pronounced the name ah-NEE-sah.

The name saw peak popularity in 1971 — the year Family Affair went off the air. (It also saw an uptick in usage in 1976, the year Anissa Jones died at the age of 18 from a drug overdose.)

A secondary peak in popularity happened in 1993-1994 thanks to the TV movie For the Love of My Child: The Anissa Ayala Story, which aired in mid-1993 and was based on the true story of Anissa Ayala, a teenage leukemia patient in need of a bone marrow donor. Her parents had another baby (Marissa) in the hopes that the second child would be a compatible donor (she was).

What are your thoughts on the name Anissa?


  • Family Affair – Wikipedia
  • Garver, Kathy. Surviving Cissy: My Family Affair of Life in Hollywood. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2015.

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