In 1978, the interesting name Sayward debuted as a girl name in the U.S. baby name data:
1980: 26 baby girls named Sayward
1979: 12 baby girls named Sayward
1978: 22 baby girls named Sayward [debut]
Where did it come from?
A three-part TV miniseries called The Awakening Land, which aired on NBC in February of 1978. The miniseries chronicled the struggles of pioneer woman Sayward Luckett, who moved with her family to the unsettled Ohio Valley in the last years of the 1700s.
Sayward was played by played by Elizabeth Montgomery (who was playing Samantha on Bewitched a decade earlier). Montgomery was nominated for the Emmy for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series” for her portrayal of Sayward.
And Sayward wasn’t the only character with an interesting name. Her parents were Worth and Jary; her younger sisters were Genny, Achsa, and Sulie; her husband was Portius; her children included sons Resolve, Kinzie, and Chancey and daughters Huldah, Sulie, and Dezia.
The name Sulie, used for two different characters, also debuted in the data in 1978:
1979: 5 baby girls named Sulie
1978: 5 baby girls named Sulie [debut]
And the name Chancey, used for Sayward’s youngest son, saw peak usage the same year:
1980: 37 baby boys named Chancey
1979: 24 baby boys named Chancey
1978: 53 baby boys named Chancey [peak]
1977: 17 baby boys named Chancey
1976: 22 baby boys named Chancey
The story was originally a trilogy of books published in the 1940s and ’50s by Conrad Richter. The third book, called The Town, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1951.
In the books, the Luckett family had one more child, a boy named Wyitt, and Sayward and Portius had a total of ten children (sons Resolve, Guerdon, Kinzie, and Chancey; daughters Sulie, Huldah, Libby, Sooth, Dezia, and Massey).
What are your thoughts on the baby name Sayward? (Or on any of the other names in the series?)
A while back, I stumbled upon a register of people who were associated with Oxford University in the late 1500s and early 1600s.
Interestingly, the author of the register decided to include a chapter dedicated to first names and surnames, and that chapter included a long list of male forenames and their frequency of occurrence from 1560 to 1621.
The author claimed that, for several reasons, these rankings were “probably…more representative of English names than any list yet published” for that span of time. One reason was that the names represented men from “different grades of English society” — including peers, scholars, tradesmen, and servants.
So, are you ready for the list?
Here’s the top 100:
John, 3,826 individuals
Peter (and Peirs/Pers), 175
Alexander, 98 (tie)
Arthur, 98 (tie)
Joseph, 78 (tie)
Lewis, 78 (tie)
Griffith (and Griffin), 60
Abraham, 54 (tie)
Leonard, 54 (tie)
Morris (and Maurice), 51
Bartholomew, 46 (3-way tie)
Oliver, 46 (3-way tie)
Timothy, 46 (3-way tie)
Martin, 44 (tie)
Rice, 44 (tie)
Toby (and Tobias), 34
Bernard, 28 (3-way tie)
Gregory, 28 (3-way tie)
Isaac, 28 (3-way tie)
Jasper (and Gaspar), 26 (3-way tie)
Josiah (and Josias), 26 (3-way tie)
Randall (and Randolph), 26 (3-way tie)
Austin (and Augustine), 22 (tie)
Jarvis (and Gervase), 22 (tie)
Matthias, 20 (tie)
Reginald (and Reynold), 20 (tie)
Joshua 18 (3-way tie)
Marmaduke, 18 (3-way tie)
Valentine, 18 (3-way tie)
Fulke, 17 (tie)
Sampson (and Samson), 17 (tie)
Clement, 16 (4-way tie)
Ferdinando, 16 (4-way tie)
Herbert, 16 (4-way tie)
Zachary, 16 (4-way tie)
Cuthbert, 15 (3-way tie)
Emanuel, 15 (3-way tie)
Vincent, 15 (3-way tie)
Adrian, 14 (3-way tie)
Elias, 14 (3-way tie)
Jonah (and Jonas), 14 (3-way tie)
Allan, 12 (6-way tie)
Ames, 12 (6-way tie)
Barnaby (and Barnabas), 12 (6-way tie)
Gerard (and Garret), 12 (6-way tie)
Lionel, 12 (6-way tie)
Mark, 12 (6-way tie)
Abel, 11 (3-way tie)
Erasmus, 11 (3-way tie)
Roderic, 11 (3-way tie)
Did the relative popularity of any of these names surprise you?
The author did note that “the more common names occur more frequently than they ought to…from the tendency to confuse less common names with them.”
For example, a person called ‘Edmund,’ if he is frequently mentioned in the Register, is almost certain to be somewhere quoted as ‘Edward,’ ‘Gregory’ as ‘George,’ ‘Randall’ or ‘Raphael’ as ‘Ralph,’ ‘Gilbert’ as ‘William,’ and so on.
Now here are some of the less-common names, grouped by number of appearances in the register: