Category: vintage names for girls
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Once a year, we like to stop and turn the calendar back a hundred years to see what parents were naming their babes a century ago and whether we might find some undiscovered treasures that, following the hundred-year rule, might be ready to be revived.
What was the world like in 1913? Trouble was fomenting abroad in the year preceding World War I, but in the US it was a time of new beginnings, with the election of Woodrow Wilson, the births of future Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, women marching to gain the vote– and, for better or worse, it was the year that saw the introduction of the Federal income tax, the first cigarette pack, stainless steel and the zipper.
Things were quiet at the top end of the baby name popularity list as well, headed by the expected classics for boys: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph, George, Charles, Edward, Frank and Thomas (not dissimilar to the royal baby list), while for the girls there were period favorites Mary (36,000+ of them), Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth, Mildred, Anna, Elizabeth, Frances and Marie. Of these Top 10 boys and girls, only William and Elizabeth survive on the current Top 10, with James and Joseph still in the Top 20.
Vintage names have been cool for a while now, but old school nicknames are just starting to come into their own.
The Brits have led the way on the revival of the retro nickname, with their fashionable little Alfies and Evies, Freddys and Teddys — though Teddy just might be a girl.
Using one of these new old nicknames for your child can be a way to give a fresh spin to a classic name, to distinguish a little girl from her namesake grandma, or to set your Henry apart from the five others on the block.
Here, a roundup of classic and vintage names and their old school nicknames.
Today being National Aunts and Uncles Day (who knew, right?), here’s a shout-out to some of the most memorable aunts in both literature and pop culture– the sweet and the sour, the doting and the demanding, the over-indulgent and the overbearing—with, in literature at least, the unfortunate majority being the more domineering.
Especially in Victorian literature, with its plethora of poor orphans, aunts would often step in as surrogate moms. Unfortunately, some of the more notable ones are known to us by their surnames only.
Here are some of the most memorable, from sources as varied as from novels to comics.
If you’ve spent any time on Nameberry recently or if you get our newsletter, you’ve seen the ads for my new novel, The Possibility of You. The story of three women at three key moments of the past century dealing with unplanned pregnancies and questions of motherhood, the book required me to spend a lot of time researching the fashion and music, home decoration and child-rearing practices of 1916. And of course, while I was at it, I couldn’t resist digging up information about names.
One of the most fascinating sources I found was the 1916 Social Register, which listed everybody who was anybody in New York. It took both money and social standing to get your name in the Social Register, and so it was a window into upper class naming practices at the time.
One notable trend in evidence, mostly with male names but occasionally with female ones too, was last names used in first place. Long a practice in moneyed families looking to cement ties between fortunes, these surnames are not the faux Coopers and Parkers that rose up over the past few decades but the genuine article: wealthy Great Aunt Fanny‘s maiden name, for instance, or maternal grandfather’s surname.
Of course, if you’re interested in using a surname as a first for your child, it’s best to use one from your own family, honoring someone you love even if you don’t expect them to leave you a million bucks. But failing that, there’s no reason you can’t steal one of these choices. If you like the whole last names as first style, these sound fresher and more interesting than Taylor or Logan.
Choices from the 1916 Social Register:
Our Berry Question of the Week comes from Jen Barnes of Seattle, who’s facing a common problem in Baby Name Land: She and her husband are having trouble agreeing on a name for their second daughter. Here, the names he likes and those that she likes. Your job, dear berries, is to help them find a name they both will love. Jen writes:
Please help us name baby #2! Our 2nd baby girl is arriving in 4 short weeks and she has no name! Our 18-month-old daughter, Rose Katherine, was named the second we found out that she was a girl! Every time I think I have some names narrowed down, I add one to the list. My husband has been no help in this process either — ha. Here are the names he likes:
Shayla– he used to live in a city (spelled Xela) in Guatemala with this name and it is very dear to his heart but I am just not feeling it.
I love the name Nora but I fear that it is becoming too popular. What do you think?
Here are my favorite names currently: