Years ago, I discovered three documents with relatively complete lists of births for the city of Providence, Rhode Island, for the years 1866, 1867, and 1868. I’ve already created Providence’s baby name rankings for 1866 and 1867 using the first two documents, and today (finally!) I’ve got the third set of rankings for you.
Let’s start with some stats:
1,762 babies were born in Providence in 1868, by my count. According to the introduction of the document I’m using a source, however, the total number is 1,866. I don’t know how to account for this discrepancy.
1,617 of these babies (791 girls and 826 boys) had names that were known at the time of publication. The other 145 babies got blank spaces. Either their names hadn’t been registered yet, or they hadn’t been named yet, or perhaps these babies died young and never received a name.
284 unique names (143 girl names and 141 boy names) were shared among these 1,617 babies.
And now, on to the names!
A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1868:
Top baby girl names
Top baby boy names
1. Mary 2. Catherine 3. Sarah 4. Ellen 5. Margaret
1. John 2. William 3. James 4. Charles 5. George
All Girl Names
Mary, 149 baby girls
Clara & Martha, 11 each (tie)
Hannah & Lucy, 10 each (tie)
Bridget, Grace, Jennie, Julia & Maria, 9 each (5-way tie)
Annie, Florence, Jane, Minnie & Susan, 8 each (5-way tie)
Agnes, Caroline, Cora, Ella & Harriet, 7 each (5-way tie)
The uncommon name Esai debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1987:
1990: 22 baby boys named Esai
1989: 34 baby boys named Esai
1988: 33 baby boys named Esai
1987: 14 baby boys named Esai [debut]
Where did it come from?
Actor Esai (pronounced ee-sie) Morales, who was one of the stars of the 1987 movie La Bamba.
The movie was a biopic of rock and roll pioneer Richard Valenzuela, popularly known as Ritchie Valens (played by Lou Diamond Phillips). Esai played Ritchie’s brash older brother, Bob Morales. (The characters had different fathers, which accounts for the different surnames.)
Esai Morales, born in New York and of Puerto Rican descent, inherited his first name from his own father. The name is thought to be based on Esaias, which is a form of the Biblical name Isaiah (meaning “Yahweh is salvation” in Hebrew).
Interestingly, the character’s surname being “Morales” like his own was a factor in Esai’s decision to take the part. At the time, he was trying to choose between the role in La Bamba and a role in the Steven Spielberg movie Batteries Not Included, which he assumed would be an “instant hit.”
And I just thought to myself, there’s the commercial-looking success thing, but then there’s this thing that tugs at my heart. It made me cry. I read the story and, like, I had tears streaming down my face. […] And I saw a character with my name on it. Literally, it had my name on it. You don’t see great roles oftentime with Latino names, much less your own. You know, so I was like, you know, I’m gonna roll the dice with this one. And I think I made the right decision.
Did you know that New York City’s website hosts vital statistics reports (PDFs) going all the way back to the 1960s? And that, from 1991 onward, these annual reports include baby name rankings for NYC?
I don’t want you to have to comb through a whole bunch of PDFs to find the city’s historical top-ten lists, though, so I gathered all the lists into a single blog post.
The name tables in the reports also incorporate several older sets rankings (from 1990, 1985, 1980, 1948, 1928, and 1898 specifically) for comparison, and those are here well — just scroll to the bottom.
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2019. (Here’s my post about the 2019 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2019)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2019)
1. Emma 2. Olivia 3. Sophia 4. Mia 5. Isabella 6. Leah 7. Ava 8. Chloe 9. Amelia 10. Charlotte
1. Liam 2. Noah 3. Ethan 4. Jacob 5. Lucas 6. Aiden 7. Daniel 8. Michael 9. David 10. Matthew
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2018. (Here’s my post about the 2018 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2018)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2018)
1. Emma 2. Isabella 3. Sophia 4. Mia 5. Olivia 6. Ava 7. Leah 8. Sarah 9. Amelia 10. Chloe
1. Liam 2. Noah 3. Ethan 4. Jacob 5. Aiden 6. David 7. Lucas 8. Matthew 9. Daniel 10. Alexander
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2017. (Here’s my post about the 2017 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2017)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2017)
1. Emma 2. Olivia 3. Mia 4. Sophia 5. Isabella 6. Ava 7. Leah 8. Emily 9. Sarah 10. Abigail
1. Liam 2. Noah 3. Jacob 4. Ethan 5. David 6. Lucas 7. Matthew 8. Jayden 9. Aiden 10. Daniel
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2016. (Here’s my post about the 2016 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2016)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2016)
1. Olivia 2. Sophia 3. Emma 4. Isabella 5. Mia 6. Ava 7. Emily 8. Leah 9. Sarah 10. Madison
1. Liam 2. Jacob 3. Ethan 4. Noah 5. Aiden 6. Matthew 7. Daniel 8. Lucas 9. Michael 10. Dylan
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2015. (Here’s my post about the 2015 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2015)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2015)
1. Olivia 2. Sophia 3. Emma (tie) 4. Mia (tie) 5. Isabella 6. Leah 7. Emily 8. Ava 9. Chloe 10. Madison
1. Ethan 2. Liam 3. Noah 4. Jacob 5. Jayden 6. Matthew 7. David 8. Daniel (tie) 9. Dylan (tie) 10. Aiden
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2014. (Here’s my post about the 2014 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2014)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2014)
1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Olivia 4. Mia 5. Emma 6. Emily 7. Leah 8. Ava 9. Sofia 10. Chloe
1. Ethan 2. Jacob 3. Liam 4. Jayden 5. Noah 6. Daniel 7. Michael 8. Alexander 9. David 10. Matthew
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2013.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2013)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2013)
1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Emma 4. Olivia 5. Mia 6. Emily 7. Leah 8. Sofia 9. Madison 10. Chloe
1. Jayden 2. Ethan 3. Jacob 4. Daniel 5. David 6. Noah 7. Michael 8. Matthew 9. Alexander 10. Liam
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2012.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2012)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2012)
1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Emma 4. Olivia 5. Emily 6. Mia 7. Chloe 8. Madison 9. Leah 10. Ava
1. Jayden 2. Ethan 3. Jacob 4. Daniel 5. Matthew 6. Michael 7. Aiden 8. David 9. Ryan 10. Alexander
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2011. (Here’s my post about the 2011 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2011)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2011)
1. Isabella 2. Sophia 3. Olivia 4. Emma 5. Mia 6. Emily 7. Madison 8. Leah 9. Chloe 10. Sofia
1. Jayden 2. Jacob 3. Ethan 4. Daniel 5. Michael 6. Matthew 7. Justin 8. David 9. Aiden 10. Alexander
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2010.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2010)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2010)
1. Isabella 2. Sophia 3. Olivia 4. Emily 5. Madison 6. Mia 7. Emma 8. Leah 9. Sarah 10. Chloe
1. Jayden 2. Ethan 3. Daniel 4. Jacob 5. David 6. Justin 7. Michael 8. Matthew 9. Joseph 10. Joshua
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2009.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2009)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2009)
1. Isabella 2. Sophia 3. Mia 4. Emily 5. Olivia 6. Madison 7. Sarah 8. Ashley 9. Leah 10. Emma
1. Jayden 2. Daniel 3. Ethan 4. Michael 5. David 6. Justin 7. Matthew 8. Joshua 9. Alexander 10. Christopher
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2008.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2008)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2008)
1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Emily 4. Olivia 5. Sarah 6. Madison 7. Ashley 8. Mia 9. Samantha 10. Emma
1. Jayden 2. Daniel 3. Michael 4. Matthew 5. David 6. Joshua 7. Justin 8. Anthony 9. Christopher 10. Ethan/Ryan (tied for 10th)
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2007. (Here’s my post about the 2007 NYC rankings.)
Earlier this year, the BBC presenter formerly known as Ben Bland changed his surname to Boulos to celebrate his maternal Sudanese-Egyptian heritage.
The Bland name had masked important aspects of his identity that he had downplayed as a child, not wanting to be seen as in any way “different”, including his Coptic faith, Boulos said. “Every name tells a story – and I want mine to give a more complete picture of who I am.”
Boulos’s grandparents, who came to Britain in the 1920s, had chosen the surname Bland because they feared using the Jewish-Germanic family name “Blumenthal”. “They decided on the blandest name possible — literally — to ensure their survival,” he wrote.
Actress Camila Mendes [vid] talking about her name on The Late Late Show With James Corden in 2017:
So my name is Camila Mendes, and there’s a singer called Camila Cabello, and a singer called Shawn Mendes. And people seem to think my Twitter is a fan account for that relationship.
From the book I Speak of the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (2015) by Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo:
Babies were baptized with new and strange names, particularly in the 1920s, names taken from the titles of various socialist experiments (for instance, in Tabasco with Garrido Canaval, who established socialist baptisms), and as a result of the emergence of the radio and the indigenist turn of the city’s language. Masiosare became a boy’s name (derived from a stanza of the national anthem: “Mas si osare un extraño enemigo…”), but also Alcazelser (after the popularity of Alka-Seltzer), Xochitl, Tenoch, Cuauhtémoc, Tonatihu (the biblically named Lázaro Cárdenas named his son Cuauhtémoc).
The names of characters came from people [executive producer Peter] Engel knew growing up.
“I knew a guy named Screech Washington. He was a producer. I said I’m not going to hire him, but I’m going to steal your name,” he said. “Slater was a kid who was in my son’s kindergarten class, Zack was named after my dear, dear friend, John DeLorean. […] His son’s name was Zack. Lisa Turtle was a girl I knew and Mr. Belding, Richard Belding, had been my cranky editor when I worked at Universal.”
From the book Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood (2004) by Robert S. Birchard:
DeMille interviewed Gloria Stuart for the part of the high school girl [in This Day and Age], Gay Merrick, and said she was “extremely enthusiastic,” and he also considered Paramount contract player Grace Bradley, but ultimately he selected a former model who called herself Mari Colman. In April 1933 Colman won a Paramount screen test in a New York beauty competition, and DeMille was apparently delighted by the innocent image she projected.
In a comic sequence in David O. Selznick’s 1937 production of A Star Is Born, the studio’s latest discovery, Esther Blodgett, is given a new name more in keeping with her status as a movie starlet. As This Day and Age was getting ready to roll, Mari Colman was subjected to the same treatment as DeMille and Paramount tested long lists of potential screen names. Among the suggestions were Betty Barnes, Doris Bruce, Alice Harper, Grace Gardner, Chloris Deane, and Marie Blaire. Colman herself suggested Pamela Drake or Erin Drake. On May 15, Jack Cooper wrote DeMille that he had tried several names on seventeen people. Eleven voted for the name Doris Manning; the other six held out for Doris Drake. Somehow, the name ultimately bestowed upon her was Judith Allen. DeMille and Paramount had high hopes for Allen, and she was even seen around town in the company of Gary Cooper, one of the studio’s biggest stars.
Nowadays, most names borne by individuals in Madagascar are a particular mix of foreign names (mainly Christian, French, or British but sometimes Muslim) and Malagasy names. This is because the spread of the Christian faith in the nineteenth century resulted in people increasingly giving names from the Bible to their children. These biblical names were often modified to follow the phonological and morphological rules of the Malagasy language (e.g., John becomes Jaonina or Jaona), and often the honorific particle Ra-, the word andriana (lord), or both were added to them (e.g., Rajaonina and Randrianarijaona). While at the beginning of Christian evangelization most people still had, in traditional Malagasy fashion, only one name, progressively the most common structure of names became “binomial,” as Gueunier calls it (Gueunier 2012, 197). In this case, a Christian name (or other foreign name) is often juxtaposed to a Malagasy name, although sometimes both names are of Malagasy origin or, more rarely, both names are foreign.
Names were reduced in length when French colonization began in 1896 — the shortest names today include Rakotoarisoa, Rakotonirina, Andrianjafy or Andrianirina, and tend to have around 12 characters minimum.