How popular is the baby name Paul in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Paul.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Paul


Posts that Mention the Name Paul

What gave the baby name Madalynne a boost in 1921?

Newspaper photo of accused murderer Madalynne Obenchain (nee Conner).
Madalynne Obenchain (née Conner)

In 1921, the baby name Madalynne saw a curious spike in usage:

  • 1923: 8 baby girls named Madalynne
  • 1922: 25 baby girls named Madalynne
  • 1921: 39 baby girls named Madalynne
  • 1920: 10 baby girls named Madalynne [debut]
  • 1919: unlisted

Why?

Because of 28-year-old society beauty and femme fatale Madalynne Obenchain, who was accused of murder that year.

Born Madeline Connor in Wisconsin in 1893, she changed the spelling of her first name to “Madalynne” sometime before heading off to college at Northwestern University. There, at least two classmates fell in love with her. After college, while living in Los Angeles with her mother, she gained yet another admirer. The three men were:

  • Arthur C. Burch
  • J. Belton Kennedy
  • Ralph R. Obenchain

All three wanted to marry her. Finally, in 1919, she made her decision: it would be Obenchain (who was, by then, working as an attorney in Chicago).

But the marriage didn’t stop her from seeing Kennedy on the side. After a few months, Madalynne decided she preferred Kennedy, and her “extremely understanding husband allowed her to divorce him, gave her $80 a month in alimony and blank checks as needed.”

Madalynne and Kennedy had a tumultuous relationship, though, and Madalynne became frustrated by Kennedy’s refusal to commit. At some point in the summer of 1921, she wired Burch, who, himself recently divorced, “hopped on the next train [from Illinois] to Los Angeles to aid the woman he called his “goddess.””

On August 5, 1921, Kennedy “was found shot to death on the stairs of his cabin on Beverly Glen Boulevard, in a then-rustic neighborhood near the Los Angeles Country Club.”

A few days later, both Madalynne and Burch were charged with first-degree murder.

Obenchain, the generous ex-husband, left his job in Chicago to come to Madalynne’s defense.

Over the course of 16 months, five trials were held — two for Madalynne, three for Burch. The public — fascinated by the idea of these “cultivated, college-bred folk in the grip of overwhelming passions” — followed along via the newspapers.

Here’s one paper’s summary of the goings-on during Madalynne’s second trial (in July of 1922):

“Dream Girl” Accused of Perjury Plot! — Madalynne Obenchain, whose love brought death to one man, divorce to another and prison to a third, is now, during her own trial for murder, embroiled in charges of conspiracy by which it is said she tried to lure a fourth man to commit perjury that she might be free.

(This fourth guy to come under Madalynne’s spell was Paul Roman.)

All five of the trials ended in hung juries. “Legal experts interviewed at the time theorized that the male jurors who voted for acquittal in Madalynne’s trial were all in love with her.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Madalynne? (Do you like this spelling?)

Sources:

P.S. The debut of the name one year earlier may be due to unnamed baby girls born in 1920 finally being named “Madalynne” after Madalynne Obenchain became a fixture in the news in mid-1921. Delayed baby-naming wasn’t uncommon in the early 20th century.

Common Amish names: Jacob, Malinda, Benuel, Naomi

Amish man in a buggy

Which names are the most common among the Amish?

The simplest answer is “Biblical names,” but that’s not the full answer.

Because certain Biblical names are preferred over others, and Biblical names aren’t used exclusively.

Plus, the prevalence of a name could vary depending upon the specific Amish settlement you’re talking about.

I’ve gathered about 100 of the most common Amish names below. Before we get into specifics, though, here’s a bit of background on the Amish…

Who are the Amish?

The Amish are an Anabaptist group that intentionally maintain a degree of separation from the wider world. They wear plain clothing, eschew modern conveniences (like cars), and partake in traditional occupations such as farming, carpentry, blacksmithing, and (for women) homemaking.

The Anabaptist movement began in Europe in the 1520s, at the time of the Protestant Reformation. The Anabaptists were particularly known for the practice of adult baptism. They were also opposed to war, and they believed in the separation of church and state.

Considered radicals, the Anabaptists were widely persecuted.

In 1693, the Swiss branch of the Anabaptist movement (a.k.a., the Swiss Brethren) experienced a schism. Those who followed reformer Jacob Amman came to be known as the Amish, whereas those who did not came to be known as the Mennonites (after Dutchman Menno Simons, one of the original Anabaptist leaders).

In the early 1700s, many Amish (and Mennonites) immigrated to the New World — specifically to the Province of Pennsylvania, which had been founded upon the principle of religious freedom.

Today, over 367,000 Amish live in the U.S., and roughly two-thirds of them reside in three states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.

Amish men and women.

Common Amish names

The most comprehensive source of Amish names I came across was also the oldest, so let’s go through all the sources chronologically.

In 1960, researcher Elmer L. Smith published data on the most common male and female names among the Amish of southeastern Pennsylvania from 1890 to 1956.

The 1,337 Amish males in the study shared a total of just 72 different first names. Over a quarter of the males had one of the top three names (John, Amos, or Jacob), and over 81% had one of the top 20 names.

The 1,356 Amish females in the study shared even fewer first names: only 55. Over a quarter of the females had one of the top three names (Mary, Sarah, or Annie), and over 88% had a top-20 name.

According to Smith’s research, these were the 20 most common names per gender (plus their frequency of usage):

Amish female namesAmish male names
1Mary, 10.0%John, 11.9%
2Sarah, 7.9%Amos, 7.3%
3Annie, 9.1%*Jacob, 6.5%
4Katie, 7.1%David, 6.4%
5Lizzie, 6.4%Samuel, 6.2%
6Rebecca, 6.1%Christian, 6.1%
7Fannie, 5.3%Daniel, 5.5%
8Barbara, 5.1%Benjamin, 3.8%
9Rachel, 5.1%Levi, 3.7%
10Lydia, 4.9%Aaron, 3.1%
11Emma, 3.8%Jonas, 3.0%
12Malinda, 3.5%Elam, 2.8%
13Susie, 3.2%Stephen, 2.8%
14Sadie, 2.5%Isaac, 2.5%
15Leah, 1.9%Henry, 2.4%
16Hannah, 1.5%Jonathan, 1.8%
17Naomi, 1.4%Eli, 1.7%
18Mattie, 1.3%Gideon, 1.6%
19Lavina, 1.1%Moses, 1.5%
20Arie, 1.1%Joseph, 1.1%
*Annie was ranked below Sarah in the research paper, but this seems to be a typo, given the percentages.

Smith also wrote the following:

Other given names for males may reflect the important place the martyred forefathers hold in the minds of the sect members. The given name Menno is frequently found; this honors Menno Simmons [sic] an early leader of the plain sects. Ammon is also quite common, and is traced to Jacob Amman for whom the Amish sect is named; otherwise given names are from the Bible.

(Menno, a form of the Dutch name Meine, can be traced back to the Old High German word magan, meaning “strength.” The occupational surname Amman(n), which was derived from the German word amtmann, originally referred to someone employed as an official or administrator.)

A couple of years after Smith’s study came out, Dr. William Schreiber (a professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio) published a book about the Amish of east-central Ohio. In one paragraph, he mentioned some of the names he’d encountered:

One learns here that the good old biblical names are still common with the Amish but are in competition with modern or more euphonious ones. The names of the children of large families are often a study in contrasts. In one family there are, for example, Benjamin, Samuel, Isaac, Stephen, John, Israel, Christ, Barbara, Mary, Hannah, Annie, Mattie, and Lizzie. Another family has chosen these names for its children: Sarah, Lizzie, Samuel, Benjamin, John, Annie, Marie, Daniel, David, Enos, Sylvia, and Malinda. Then there are three Amish brothers named Isaac, Levi, and Elmer. One wonders how Vesta, Delila, Dena, Saloma, Drusilla, or Verba, or boys’ names like Junie, Venus, or Aquilla came into strict Christian families?

Speaking of east-central Ohio, Barbara Yoder Hall — who was born in 1940 and grew up with ten siblings in the Amish community of Holmes County — recalled in her book Born Amish (1980) the following first names:

First names for girls are usually Cora, Mattie, Annie, Lizzie, Barbara, Fannie, Katie, Mary, Naomi, Emma, Jemima, Ella, Sarah, Levina and Mandy.

First names for boys are John, Mose, Ferdinand, Dannie, Sam, Amos, Albert, Emanual, Levi, Rudy, Enos, Eli, Jacob and Joseph.

Amish men in a wagon.

Now for a pair of sources from the digital age…

The website Amish America, run by Erik Wesner (who is not Amish, but has visited Amish communities in 15 different states), lists the following names as being common among the Amish. He found many of the male names in Raber’s Almanac, which “contains a listing of Amish church ministers,” while many of the female names came from various church directories.

Common Amish female namesCommon Amish male names
Elizabeth
Emma
Fannie
Hannah
Katie
Linda
Lizzie
Lovina/Lavina
Martha
Mary
Miriam
Naomi
Rebecca
Ruby
Ruth
Sadie
Sarah
Waneta
Abram
Amos
Atlee
Eli
Elmer
Harley
Isaac
Jacob
John
Lavern
Leroy
Mark
Melvin
Mervin
Samuel
Vernon
Wayne
Willis

Some of Erik’s commentary…

  • Eli: “You see a lot of Elis among Amish, but not many Elijahs.”
  • Leroy: “Seems to be more common in Midwestern communities.”
  • Lizzie: “Lizzie is a popular form in some Pennsylvania communities.”
  • Naomi: “Amish, at least in Lancaster County, pronounce this ‘Nay-oh-mah.'”
  • Ruby: “Quite a few Rubies in northern Indiana.”
  • Vernon: “[P]retty common in places like northern Indiana and Holmes County, Ohio.”

Finally, according to the blog Amish Heritage, written by a woman named Anna (who grew up Amish in Pennsylvania), common Amish names include…

Common Amish female namesCommon Amish male names
Amanda
Anna/Annie
Barbara
Betty
Clara
Edna
Elizabeth
Esther
Fannie
Hannah
Lavina
Lena
Lydia
Malinda
Martha
Mary
Miriam
Naomi
Priscilla
Rachel
Rebecca
Ruth
Sadie
Sarah
Susie
Aaron
Abner
Abram
Amos
Benuel
Christian/Christ
Daniel
David
Eli
Elmer
Emmanuel
Henry
Isaac
Jacob
John
Jonas
Leroy
Lloyd
Mark
Melvin
Mervin
Moses
Omar
Paul
Samuel
Steven/Stephen
Vernon

Both websites noted that some Amish communities (particularly New Order Amish communities) have recently started giving their children less traditional first names.


So how do these lists square with what we’ve observed in the U.S. baby name data?

It’s hard to tell with historically popular names like Mary and John, but we can see some interesting things when we focus on relatively rare names.

For instance, the names Atlee, Benuel, Delila, Dena, Lavina, Menno, Saloma, and Willis have all been mentioned recently in my posts about names with a high degree of state specificity (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021). As you’d expect, they were associated with the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and/or Indiana. (Benuel, in fact, has only ever appeared in the Pennsylvania data — going all the way back to the 1940s.)

Several of the other names — including Amos, Elam, Fannie, Malinda, and Mervin — saw higher usage in Pennsylvania than in any other state in 2021.

I was surprised that none of my sources listed the name Barbie. Most of them mentioned Barbara (one of them was even named Barbara), and all of them included nicknames (like Lizzie). But Barbara’s diminutive form was curiously absent — even though most of its usage occurs in Pennsylvania:

Girls named Barbie, U.S.Girls named Barbie, Penn.
20213722 (59%)
20202617 (65%)
20193320 (61%)
20182113 (62%)
20172916 (55%)
20162814 (50%)

Rhoda and Mahlon are two more names that I somewhat expected to see.

Ammon is a very interesting case, because the name also has significance to an entirely different religious group: the Mormons. (The Book of Mormon features two prominent figures named Ammon.) From the 1910s to the 1960s, the name Ammon — much like Benuel — only appeared in the Pennsylvania data. Since the 1980s, though, the state with the largest number of baby boys named Ammon has been Utah.


What are your thoughts on the first names used by the Amish? Which of the above do you like the most?

And, for anyone out there with close ties to an Amish family/community: What other names would you add to this list?

P.S. This post is dedicated to my delightful commenters alex and Andrea. :)

Sources:

Images by Chris Chow from Unsplash, Amyd from Pixabay, and Clark Young from Unsplash

Babies named for Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher

Prussian military leader Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742-1819)
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher

At the age of 71, retired Prussian military leader Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher returned to active service after war broke out (again) between Prussia and France in early 1813.

Later the same year, he was one of the victors in the Battle of Leipzig (the “largest military engagement in 19th-century Europe”), and, in mid-1815, he became an important contributor to the Allied defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

Many dozens of babies were named for Blücher in the early 1800s. Most of them were born in Germany and England, but others were born in the U.S. and elsewhere. Here’s a sampling…

  • Frederick Von Blucher Scrutton, b. 1814 in England
  • John Christoph Blucher Ehringhaus, b. 1814 in the U.S. (North Carolina)
  • William Blucher Dolton, b. 1814 in England
  • Christian Gebhard Lebrecht Karup, b. 1814 in Denmark
  • Blucher Wellington Macan, b. 1815 in England
  • Gebhard Leberecht Friedrich Wilhelm Klammrott, b. 1815 in Germany
  • Wellington Blucher Peirce, b. 1815 in the U.S. (Vermont)
  • Friedrich Gebhard Leberecht Conrad, b. circa 1815 in Germany
  • Henry Wellington Blucher Haggis, b 1816 in England
  • Blücher Wellington Bülow Leopold Herrmann, b. circa 1816 in Germany
    • His third given name no doubt refers to Bülow. :)
  • Franz Blücher Wellington Victor Fischer, b. 1816 in Prussia
  • Gebhard Lebrecht Weltzein, b. 1816 in Germany
  • Blucher Ingham, b. circa 1817 in England
  • Paul Gebhard Lebrecht Riebow, b. 1818 in Germany
  • Nelson Wellington Blucher Jefferys, b. 1819 in England
  • Wellington Blucher Fisher, b. 1819 in the U.S. (West Virginia)
  • Picton Blucher Liddle, b. circa 1820 in England
    • His first name refers to Gen. Thomas Picton, who was killed at Waterloo.
  • Marshall Blucher Dumford, b. circa 1821 in the U.S. (Ohio)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Gebhard Leberecht Büttner, b. 1822 in Germany

A handful of German baby girls got feminized versions of the name, such as Blücherdine, Blücherine, Blüchertine, and Blücherhilde (hilde means “battle, war”).

Blücher’s middle name, Leberecht, was a relatively recent Protestant coinage made up of the German words lebe, “live,” and recht, “right.”

Sources:

What made the name Napoleon popular in the Faroe Islands?

Nólsoyar Páll (1766-1808/9) on a Faroese 50 krónur banknote
Nólsoyar Páll (on a Faroese banknote)

Did you know that “Napoleon has been a common given name in the Faroe Islands since the 1800s”?

Neither did I, until I began researching Napoleon’s influence on names.

Apparently, it all has to do with Faroese national hero Nólsoyar Páll (“Paul from Nólsoy”).

Nólsoyar Páll — born as Poul Poulsen on the island of Nólsoy in 1766 — was a seaman/trader/farmer/poet who helped improve his country in various ways:

One of his most impressive achievements was his attempt to develop direct trade between the Faroe islands and the rest of Europe. To develop this trade, he bought and rebuilt a wrecked schooner. The ship was named Royndin Fríða (The Free Enterprise), and was the first seagoing ship built in the Faroe Islands and the first Faroese-owned vessel since the early Middle Ages.

Nólsoyar Páll had a strong admiration for Napoleon — who, at that time, was in the middle of trying to conquer Europe — and he wanted to name a son after the French leader.

His second child turned out to be a girl (his first child was also a girl), but that did not deter Nólsoyar Páll. He asked to name his daughter Napolonia, but the priest disapproved. Instead, she was named Apolonia after the Greek god Apollo.

Soon after, Nólsoyar Páll convinced his brother, Jákup Nolsøe, to name his son Napoleon. His brother agreed, calling him Napoleon Nolsøe. This is most probably the first Faroe Islander to be named Napoleon. Napoleon Nolsøe went on to become the first native certified doctor in the Faroe Islands.

Nólsoyar Páll’s nephew was born in 1809 — around the time Nólsoyar Páll himself was lost at sea.

I’m not sure how many Faroese Napoleons have been born since then, but my source noted that the Faroe Islands had 29 Napoleons and several Apolonias as of early 2018.

“Napoleon” didn’t pop up in the Faroe Islands baby name rankings for 2020, but if I look through the Faroese baby name data (2001-2020) for Napoleon and Apolonia specifically, I find…

  • Napoleon, b. 2002
  • Bárður Napoleon, b. 2004
  • Hanus Napoleon, b. 2006
  • William Napoleon, b. 2006
  • Sofus Napoleon, b. 2007
  • Ella Apollonia, b. 2008
  • Apolonia Ró, b. 2012
  • Napolion, b. 2013
  • Reimar Napoleon, b. 2019
  • Andrew Napoleon, b. 2020

It’s a short list, but the Faroe Islands only welcomes about 600-700 babies per year, so — proportionally speaking — these numbers are actually pretty impressive.

Sources: National hero inspired to name son after Napoleon Bonaparte, Nólsoyar Páll – Wikipedia, Statistics Faroe Islands, Births – Hagstove Foroya, FamilySearch.org

Popular baby names in Liechtenstein, 2020

liechtenstein

The tiny country of Liechtenstein — located in the Alps, between Austria and Switzerland — welcomed 188 baby girls and 165 baby boys in 2020. According to Liechtenstein’s Office for Statistics (Amt für Statistik), the most popular baby names in the German-speaking microstate were Sofia and Maximilian/Oscar (tie).

Here are Liechtenstein’s top girl names and top boy names of 2020:

Girl Names

  1. Sofia/Sophia, 7 baby girls
  2. Laura, 5
  3. Hanna/Hannah, 4
  4. Amélie/Amelie, Anna, Annika, Emma, Julia, Lina, Mia, Nina, Noemi, Nora, Sophie, and Valentina, 3 each [12-way tie]
  5. Alya, Amelia, Elena, Elisa/Eliza, Ella, Emilia, Estelle, Klara, Lara, Leonie, Letizia, Luisa, Malia/Maliyah, Mara, Melissa, Mina, Naomi, Noelia, and Paula, 2 each [19-way tie]

Boy Names

  1. Maximilian and Oscar/Oskar, 4 baby boys each [tie]
  2. Laurin, Leo, Lian/Lyan, Luis/Louis, Noah/Noa, and Theo, 3 each [6-way tie]
  3. Gustav, Henri, Ivan/Iwan, Lenny, Leon, Leopold, Matteo, Max, Muhamed/Muhammed, Nico, Nino, Noel, and Thiago/Tiago, 2 each [13-way tie]

(Lian, one of the 2nd-place boy names, is a German short form of Julian or Kilian.)

Liechtenstein also released the single-use baby names of 2020, which is very cool. All the names not accounted for above are in the table below:

Unique girl names (98)Unique boy names (113)
Adea, Adriana, Ahlam, Aitana, Alejna, Alenia, Alina, Ally, Alya-Su, Amina, Amy, Anastasia, Anely, Annalena, Anna-Rosa, Anouk, Aria, Ariana, Aslihan, Aurora, Bissan, Carolina, Cecilia, Chiara, Clea, Cora, Darija, Elenia, Elina, Elizabeta, Elizan, Elna, Eltea, Emanuela, Esîlya, Fabia, Farah, Fatima, Fjella, Georgie-Gisele, Gioia, Giulia, Helena, Ida, Ilenia, Iris, Irma, Ivy, Jamie, Joleen, Joya, Juna, Kaia, Katharina, Keysi, Ksenija, Lena, Leonor, Lilian, Liyana, Loredana, Lorena, Luana, Luena, Maeva, Malak, Maria, Maria-Luisa, Marie, Melina, Merle, Mia-Sophie, Miira, Mila, Mira, Naila, Natalia, Nayeli, Nelia, Nika, Riva, Rivanna, Romy, Ronja, Salima, Samira, Sandrina, Senada, Soley, Tajra, Teresa, Tina, Valérie, Viviana, Xoawa, Yara, Yesim, ZeynepAaron, Adrián, Aidan, Ajan, Alessandro, Alonso, Alp, Anas, Aril, Armon, Arthur, Aurel, Aurelio, Benedikt, Benjamin, Benno, Bruno, Christian, Christoph, Clark, Curdin, Cyano, Damiano, Danilo, Dante, Davide, Dominik, Eduardo, Elija, Elvis, Emanuel, Emil, Emilian, Emilio, Enes, Erian, Erion, Fabian, Federico, Finn, Gabriele, Giuliano, Hamza, Hazar, Hendrick, Jamie, Jan, Jari, Jeremias, Jérôme, Johannes, Jonah, Jonas, Jorel, Julian, Kentse, Kiano, Konstantin, Lauri, Leart, Levin, Liam, Liandro, Linus, Lio, Lionel, Lorent, Luan, Macgyver, Mahir, Majiid, Marco, Marius, Martim, Massimo, Mats, Maurice, Michael, Michele, Mike, Mikyas, Milan, Nael, Nando, Nawin, Neo, Nick, Nicolas, Niklas, Oliver, Omer, Paul, Philomeno, Pierangelo, Raffi, Ragnar, Redford, Rico, Ruben, Samuel, Sebastian, Tenzin, Tino, Tobias, Umut, Valentino, Valerio, Victor, Vito, Yakup, Yanis, Yuusuf, Zeno

Finally, since this is the first time I’m posting rankings for Liechtenstein, let’s throw in the country’s top baby names for the two previous years:

  • In 2019: Emma (9) and a four-way tie between Fabio, Leon, Matteo and Paul (4 each).
  • In 2018: Valentina (7) and a three-way tie between Ben, Leon, and Samuel (4 each).

Sources: Vornamenstatistik – Amt für Statistik (AS), Liechtenstein – Wikipedia, Behind the Name