Where did the baby name Tondra come from?

Kidnapping victim Terry Taylor of Charlotte, North Carolina in 1946.
Terry Taylor, 4 years old

The interesting name Tondra first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1946:

  • 1949: unlisted
  • 1948: 9 baby girls named Tondra
  • 1947: unlisted
  • 1946: 9 baby girls named Tondra [debut]
  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: unlisted

I don’t know why it dropped out of the data and then returned in 1948 with the same (relatively high) number of babies — that’s not a typical pattern — but I can explain the initial appearance.

In February and March of 1946, the kidnapping of 4-year-old Terry Taylor of Charlotte, North Carolina, was front-page news across the nation for several days straight.

Terry, her 5-year-old sister Tondra Taylor, and their 19-year-old nursemaid Rosemary Johnson were at a park in Charlotte one Tuesday when Rosemary decided to take Terry on a bus ride out of state. (They left Tondra behind at the park.)

The pair remained missing until Thursday night, when they were discovered in Annapolis, Maryland. Rosemary had managed to find a position as a maid. She had told the homeowners that she was the child’s widowed mother, but the homeowners became suspicious (in part because the child called herself Terry even though Rosemary insisted the name was Jerry) and called the police.

Terry’s parents drove to Annapolis on Friday to retrieve her, and nursemaid Rosemary was arrested. (Turns out her real name was Loretta Brozek. She was found guilty in July and sentenced to seven years in federal prison, but in October she was transferred to a mental institution.)

Though older sister Tondra was never the focus of the story, her name was mentioned repeatedly in the news that week.

And, ironically, Tondra’s name wasn’t really Tondra — it was Tonda (according to the North Carolina birth records, the 1940 U.S. census, and at least one early news report). In fact, she seems to be the same Tonda Taylor who founded the LGBTQ group Time Out Youth in Charlotte in 1991.

The name Terry — already on the rise for both genders at that time — also saw a jump in usage in 1946.

Do you like the name Tondra? How about Tonda?

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