Baby Names Before 1850

Baby Names Before 1850

Records on baby names only started in the US in 1880, and so getting an accurate read on names from the 1800s before this time can be difficult at best.

But researcher Douglas Galbi has compiled lists of baby names drawn from census records of the early 19th century. We combed through Galbi’s data on baby names from 1800 to 1850 in search of trends, patterns, and vintage baby names that go way beyond the expected John and Mary, Elizabeth and James.

Read on for our findings, and inspiration from a rarely-tapped source.

Popular 1800s Names

The top three baby names from 1800-1850 were consistent classics: Mary, Elizabeth and Sarah for girls, and John, William and James for boys.

Beyond these, many of the most popular names of the era are stylish again today, some of them after a long decline (or two) and rebirth. These include:

Religious Names

Religious names, particularly from the Bible, predominate for both sexes in the early 19th century.

The queen of religious names was Mary: at some points it was used more than twice as much as the next most popular names, Elizabeth and Sarah (also biblical).

Other popular biblical names for girls were Martha, Ann, Rebecca, Rachel, and Esther. More unusual religious names for girls include:

The most popular religious names for boys were predictable classics like the top name, John, as well as Andrew, Daniel, David, Peter, and Michael. Many of the less common biblical boy names are Old Testament choices that are now enjoying a revival (and some that we think should come back!). These include:

Names from Mythology and History

Early 19th century Americans revered the classics, and just like parents today, they often turned to names from mythology and ancient history for baby names. Some of our favorites are:

Americana Names

In the decades after the birth of the United States, names that honored American places and heroes were popular. These included:

Now-Unisex Names for Boys

Names in common use for boys from 1800 to 1850 include several choices that are now unisex, or mostly female. But what goes around comes around, and these many of these names have old-fashioned charm on a boy today.

Modern-Sounding Names

Among the old-school Mildreds and Leonards are several names that feel more like modern children. They include names more associated with a later era, like Taylor, and contemporary-sounding nature names like Dahlia.

Lost Names of the 1800s

There are many names on the rolls for 1800-1850 that are rarely found today. Some names were spelled differently then (at least in the census records): Malinda, Malissa, and Phebe, for instance.

Here are some names that don't appear at all on the most recent baby name records. Which ones would you like to see come back?

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.