How did “The Big Valley” influence baby names?

Title of the TV series "The Big Valley" (1965-1969)

TV western The Big Valley (1965-1969) was set in California’s San Joaquin Valley in the 1870s.

It followed the wealthy, ranch-owning Barkley family, which was headed by widowed matriarch Victoria (played by Barbara Stanwyck).

Victoria had five adult children — Jarrod, Nick, Audra, Heath, and Eugene* — and three of the five ended up having a big influence on U.S. baby names…

big valley, baby name, jarrod, 1960s

Jarrod Barkley, Victoria’s eldest son, was a respected attorney. The name Jarrod debuted in the baby name data in 1965, and by 1966 usage had increased by more than a factor of 10:

  • 1969: 318 baby boys named Jarrod (rank: 443rd)
  • 1968: 353 baby boys named Jarrod (rank: 410th)
  • 1967: 263 baby boys named Jarrod (rank: 469th)
  • 1966: 219 baby boys named Jarrod (rank: 511th)
  • 1965: 21 baby boys named Jarrod [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted

Other forms of the name also got a boost, from the traditional spelling (Jared) to several other brand-new spellings (including Jerrid, Jarrad, and Jarred — the highest-debuting male name of 1966).

big valley, baby name, heath, 1960s

Heath Barkley was the illegitimate son of Victoria’s late husband. (Victoria eventually accepted him as her own.) The name Heath entered the top 1,000 in 1966:

  • 1969: 524 baby boys named Heath (rank: 344th)
  • 1968: 548 baby boys named Heath (rank: 326th)
  • 1967: 516 baby boys named Heath (rank: 329th)
  • 1966: 433 baby boys named Heath (rank: 361st)
  • 1965: 37 baby boys named Heath
  • 1964: 10 baby boys named Heath

One variant, Heith, emerged in the data in 1966. (Not surprising, given the popularity of Keith at the time.)

big valley, baby name, audra, 1960s

Audra Barkley was Victoria’s only daughter. The name Audra entered the top 1,000 in 1966 and saw peak usage in 1967:

  • 1969: 844 baby girls named Audra (rank: 310th)
  • 1968: 997 baby girls named Audra (rank: 273rd)
  • 1967: 1152 baby girls named Audra (rank: 246th) [peak]
  • 1966: 892 baby girls named Audra (rank: 283rd)
  • 1965: 90 baby girls named Audra
  • 1964: 15 baby girls named Audra

Finally, while neither Nick nor Eugene (who was on the series during the first season only) had much influence upon their respective names, at least one single-episode character made an impact.

Layle Johnson (played by Leslie Parrish) — a love-interest for Nick — appeared on the episode “Bounty on a Barkley,” which aired in February of 1968. The name Layle, which had appeared in the data once before as a boy name, returned that year as a girl name:

  • 1969: unlisted
  • 1968: 6 baby girls named Layle [debut for girls]
  • 1967: unlisted

Which of these Big Valley names do you like best?

Sources: The Big Valley – Wikipedia, “Bounty on a Barkley” – The Big Valley – IMDb

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