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Baby Names Before 1850

Unique vintage names way beyond Mary and John

Records on baby names only started in the US in 1880, and so getting an accurate read on what babies were named before that has been difficult at best. But now a researcher named Douglas Galbi has compiled lists of baby names drawn from census records of the early 19th century. With the help of Esita Rocha, 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. Here, our findings, illustrated by American folk art of the same period.   — Pamela Redmond Satran

Popular Names

While Mary and John held tight to the Number 1 spots through the first half of the 19th century, many of the most popular names of the era are popular and stylish again today, some of them after a long decline (or two) and rebirth. These include, for girls: Alice, Charlotte, Clara, Emily, Isabella, Julia, Laura, and Sophia, and for boys: Benjamin, Charles, Daniel, Henry, Jacob, James, Samuel, and William.

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9 Responses to “Baby Names Before 1850”

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Marcardk Says:

March 4th, 2016 at 7:56 am

Under names for boys then that seem feminine now, you list Elisha. Is it possible this was the Biblical prophet Elisha (E-lye-shuh) and not a name rhyming with Alicia for girls, as we know it?

Alsace Says:

March 4th, 2016 at 10:28 am

My 3x great grandfather was named Wesley (I think he was born in 1851). He had a brother named Melancthon (apparently they were big Calvinists). His sisters were named Mary, Catherine, and Frances though so obviously their parents weren’t as adventurous with girls names.

I love the name Almond, although only as a middle name. I was born in Almond, NY although we only lived there a short time, but still there is a connection. It’s a beautiful area.

I also love Miles, Marion (for a girl or boy), and Asa.

LoveBugsMama Says:

March 4th, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Those are the creepiest paintings of children ever….I want one of my child.

ARead Says:

March 4th, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Fascinating! Great to have some data from before 1880! I know they couldn’t all have been named Mary and John back then!

Jolanic Says:

March 4th, 2016 at 4:36 pm

LoveBugsMama LOL. Those pictures are the stuff of nightmares.

Some good names though.

ashbee Says:

March 4th, 2016 at 6:03 pm

Interesting post! A lot of great names – I also like Almond, Miles, Asa, and Marion. However, I don’t understand why you listed Dahlia and Olive under “modern-sounding.” I know they’re newly popular, but they are vintage names.

Star_Girl Says:

March 4th, 2016 at 6:44 pm

I don’t know if I would use the name Obadiah. I think Obadiah was the name of one of Iron Man’s enemies so that name kind of makes me think of him. Also, Ebenezer makes me think of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Plus, a lot of the names are either good character names or just plain weird.

mykka Says:

March 5th, 2016 at 4:56 pm

I only like Emery and Madison on boys.

Rhii Says:

March 7th, 2016 at 10:29 pm

I know an Elisha (m, pronounced El-EYE-sha) born about 1981, and an Electa born about 1980. I also knew a Malinda in grade school, she’s about a 1982 baby, I would think.

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