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The Lost Names of 1913

It’s a fallacy that, in the sweet old days, baby names were conventional and “normal” — children were named Mary and John or, at the outer fringes of adventurism, Ethel and Irving.

The truth is that a century ago there were scores of invented names, names with kreeative spellings, surnames and words turned first names, gender crossovers, and trendy choices that were there today and gone — very very gone — tomorrow.

The Top 1000 list of 1913 — go here to find it — is full of such unconventional baby names: Girls named Joseph and boys (lots of ’em) named Mary, boys named Prince and girls named Queen.

Among the most popular names are choices rarely heard today — Edna and Gladys, Elmer and Floyd — along with rising stars of the baby name world such as Ruby and Hazel, Oscar and Everett.

And then down toward the bottom of the Top 1000, below such oddities to our ears as Milburn and Mafalda, are names that seem eminently “normal,” even cool, in the modern world like Lilah and Reid, Lexie and Reese.

There’s a lot to study and write about in the 1913 baby name roster, but our focus today are the lost names of 1913 — those that show up on the Top 1000 then but are virtually unheard of now.

Of course, some of you may have heard of some of these names, most likely via an ancestor or a character in a long-ago book or film. But most of these names, with their 1913 rank in parentheses, have disappeared from use.

girls

Ollie (172)
Leola (205)
Elva (209)
Alta (213)
Ola (220)
Nannie (242)
Elnora (250)
Zelma (252)
Letha (262)
Neva (276)
Zella (343)
Dessie (345)
Dovie (393)
Vada (394)
Alpha (403)
Verda (411)
Elda (412)
Lona (417)
Mozelle (329)
Florine (424)
Wilda (430)
Melva (462)
Zola (471)
Floy (473
Glenna (475)
Orpha (489)
Albina (491)
Veda (494)
Retha (506)
Lura (518)
Velva (521)
Era (522)
Idella (523)
Zora (537)
Elna (541)
Myrtice (547)
Cleta (742)
Treva (766)
Exie (845)
Enola (857)
Monnie (863)
Fairy (873)
Louvenia (893)

boys

Delbert (184)
Elwood (206)
Garland (286)
Alva (307)
Buford (357)
Odell (364)
Weldon (366)
Milford (369)
Wilburn (401)
Omer (412)
Odis (415)
Olin (416)
Columbus (423)
Major (430)
Winfred (436)
Coy (439)
Linwood (452)
Lyman (453)
Mose (454)
Ora (473)
Cletus (476)
Dewitt (486)
Otha (495)
Theron (497)
Dock (521)
Haskell (526)
Delmer (532)
Eldred (550)
Elzie (582)
Merton (590)
Alois (597)
Dorsey (631)
Arvid (638)
Hobert (644)
Erling (672)
Clovis (734)
Foy (763)
Loy (771)
Price (800)
Talmadge (829)
Hosea (843)
Burley (916)
Finis (920)
Spurgeon (948)
Christ (973)

The big question: Could/should any of these names be revived?

The 1913 painting illustrating this piece is by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.

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68 Responses to “The Lost Names of 1913”

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stripedsocks Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 12:24 am

I heard a pregnant mum talking about Wilda not long ago.

I love Zella (and Zelda) and would use them if I could.

Idella is interesting.

I like Dove more than Dovie but I’m just like that.

mill1020 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 12:48 am

I think Zola, Zora, Veda, and Ola have the best chances of revival from the girls’ list. For the boys, maybe Burley, Eldred, or Buford (especially with the nickname Ford) will come back.

LexieM Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:09 am

I love Elva, Eldred and Erling they all sound like they could be elfish royalty. But on a more honest not I really do like Elva though not so much Alva.

laurbails Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:23 am

Odell is my brother’s, father’s, grandfather’s, and great-grandfather’s middle name. It’s one I’ve always considered for its personal significance, “O” sound, and freshness.

KiwiMarie Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:26 am

I can see why many of these fell out of use (yikes). Several names wouldn’t translate into the modern day at all (Nannie? Florine? Fairy? Coy? Christ??), some sound like some disturbing medical problem (Cleta/Cletis, Velva and Floy), and some are just way too over-the-top (Louvenia? Talmadge? really??) But there are a few that are salvageable. I’ve always liked Neva, Wilda has a lovely windblown sound to it, Zella is intriguing, and Veda is rich with significance. For the boys, Weldon, Omer, Olin and Dorsey are rather charming for the very adventurous. The problem is, many of these names have a more conventional sound-alike that would make a much better choice.
Ollie to Olive
Leola to Leona
Elva/Elda/Elna to Ella
Ola to Lola
Elnora to Elenora
Velva to Velvet
Myrtice to Myrtle
Monny to Molly
Odis to Otis
Olin to Colin
Mose to Moses
Hobert to Robert
Christ to Christian

nativoyoung Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:28 am

Love Theron and Haskell from the boy’s list. Mose might catch on because of The Office. I have a nephew named Talmage. It is becoming pretty common in Mormon circles because of the church leader James E. Talmage.

I’ll have to think about Dorsey and Odell. They might grow on me.

Livi Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:54 am

My great grandmother’s name was Nannie. She was called Nannie by all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren because, let’s face it, she pretty much had a built-in grandma name. I also have a great aunt whose first name is Lura, but she goes by Luraly because it’s kind of smooshed with her middle name Lydia.

Katja Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 2:24 am

I highly doubt any boys were named Mary, or many girls were named Joseph. Most of those are the result of clerical error. Mary was one of the most common female names, so that is why it shows up in the boys’ list. Again, I do not think boys were actually being named Mary. I’ve never seen any proof of that.

amandaberry Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 4:22 am

Theres a street I often pass while driving around town called Louvenia and I always admire it as a drive by. I don’t think I’d be daring enough to use it though and it doesn’t seem to have very good nn potential, but still so striking and gorgeous.

TheFutureMrsB Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 6:06 am

I have a great uncle named Burley and a great uncle named Odell (twin to Abell).
Although they were named about 1930-1940.

AvieGrace Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 6:49 am

My mom has an ex-step mother named Glenna and an ex-step brother named Delbert, both of which she got really close to.

doodle Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 6:54 am

One of my best friends is called Dessi (short for Dessislava; she’s Bulgarian). Easy alternative to Jessie, and I like the Steinbeck nod as well.

Alexandra1 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 7:02 am

To me the name Louvinia sounds a lot like the character name Lavinia from Downton Abbey (show on PBS). Since the show is fairly popular, maybe some version of the name will also increase in popularity?

pam Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 7:05 am

I agree, Katja, that many of the girl Johns and boy Marys are there thanks to clerical era. But the numbers are high: 121 girls named John and 440 named Johnnie — lots of girls have boys’ names with ie at the end, such as Vinnie, Tommie, so I’m guessing most of these Johnnies were authentically female. And then there are 125 boys named Mary. Most of those are probably really girls but I bet a few probably carry the Old World Catholic practice of giving all children, boys and girls, Maria or Mary as a first name…

shinysarah11 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 7:06 am

I have a cousin named Lura, in her 40’s. I like Zora and Vada, since they’re uncommon and I like the Z and V sounds. I love the 100 year rule!! Bring back more old names!!!

sydnergy Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 7:31 am

I know a little Zella, Zola, and Linwood. Love their names and this list is right up my alley 🙂

Goodkarmavt Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 7:41 am

I know a Zola, Treva and young Theron. Interesting post! Some of the boy names are great!

KrissyKat Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 7:43 am

Zola and Zella definitely seem like they would work today. I particularly like Neva and Elwood (especially for middles!).

jessicalucy Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 7:52 am

I know someone in their 20s named Elwood, and have always thought it was a slightly strange name! Didn’t know how much history it had though, I originally thought his parents made the name up!

Lo Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 8:01 am

My grandmother who was born in 1900 not 1913 was named Linilda and her childhood nickname was Billy. Total smooshed named!

Lo Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 8:03 am

I should have added that Linilda’s middle name was Lucille so both her first and middle name had the double Ls so popular recently.

alzora Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 8:18 am

LOVE Ollie and have it on my list, but would probably never use it because of the popularity of Olivia. As for Neva, it still exists among the elderly generation in the small-town neck of the woods where I live, but is not pronounced the Spanish way (NAY-vuh); it is pronounced phonetically as NEE-vuh. (Same with Rena = REE-nuh, Treva = TREE-vuh, etc.)

@Katja, I was just reading last night about a woman in the 1800s named Frank after an uncle, but she changed it to Frances. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that more girls in the same era were given boy names. I had ancestors who had 11 children, and the first several were girls. They wanted boys for practical reasons (help on the farm), so although they gave their daughters legal girl names (eg, Louise), they CALLED them boy names (Billie, Bobbi, Pete) that stuck right up until their old age. I remember Aunt Bobbi (Louise) and my dad still talks about Aunt Pete.

AdaGirl11 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 9:13 am

My four year old daughter’s name is Neva. We loved the name having heard of a Parisan family friend with the name. When we learned it was a family name on both sides we went for it. It was my great-great aunt’s name and my husband’s great-grandmother’s name, each from the late 1800’s early 1900’s generation. We love how the name has special family significance, is less popular but fits right in with today’s naming trends while being a solid name that’s been used for generations.

pam Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 9:28 am

Adagirl, that is pretty amazing that you chose the unusual name Neva and then discovered it was a family name on both sides — kinda spooky!

And Alzora, there really are so many “boys'” names on the girls’ side, especially the kind of nickname-names you mention. They were precursors of names like Cameron and Rory used for both sexes.

sunshinerose Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 9:47 am

My niece is Veda! Love it (and unashamedly biased)

mipsy Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 10:05 am

My fiance has an uncle named Delmer, and one of the ladies I work with in the church kitchen (amittedly pushing 90) is called Ollie as a nickname for Olga.

I think Ollie is cute, but I am really digging the Z names for girls up there.

pam Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 10:15 am

Mipsy, I wondered when I was making this list if some of the nickname-names arose as attempts to “Americanize” and modernize old world family names like Olga. Also some of the abbreviated names such as Ola and Elda — I suspect these are shortened forms of names that might have been considered to ethnic or old-fashioned. I wish the US name records went back further than 1880 but we are lucky to have the extensive data that we do….

sweetpeace13 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 10:34 am

If we have a 2nd son, I plan to name him Olin Michael. I think its a great short masculine and yet uncommon name.

kjoebbb Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 10:35 am

A teacher from high school named her son Major! I really love Zora.

KateM91 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 11:03 am

I love Ollie and Dorsey!

Sunshine.10 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 11:09 am

@adagirl11: That is really neat that you just Neva for your daughter. I love that name! Out of curiosity, how do you pronounce it?

LilySong Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 11:11 am

I have/had a great-aunt Zola & know a woman in her 30s named Albina! lol

Jocelyne Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 11:16 am

I’m pretty sure Ola is a Polish name or at least eastern European. Interesting list.

PetraPlum Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I love Alta – beautiful look, sound and meaning (elevated). Soft and strong. The 1913 painting is wonderful – well found!

ssterikoff Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 12:38 pm

We had a Lura in the family – she was my grandfather’s first wife. My 8th grade Reading teacher was Neva Gribble. My elementary school principal’s first name didn’t make this list, though. She was named Mazola – after the corn oil!

iwillpraise Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:01 pm

My sister-in-law’s grandmother was named Alta and it is also her mn; she passed it along as my neice’s mn. That was the first I ever heard of it.

I know of a lady named Zelma. Thinking about Glenna makes me think about Glendora, who I’ve noticed is a name from the production team of TLC’s A Baby Story. Orpha– the Biblical Ruth’s SIL– was the original name of Oprah Winfrey (suggested by her aunt), but somehow the letters were all switched on her birth certificate and her mom decided to keep the new variation because she really liked it.

Louvenia is a variation of Lavinia, which I love! So beautiful and unheard of! It’s been one of my favs since I heard it the first time (on my Cabbage Patch Kid 🙂 Louvenia is just as lovely

xiabelle Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I currently work with both a Leola and a Lona on a regular basis. I’ve also worked with an Idella in the past. (And I’m — barely — under 40) We also used to have a neighbor (with a toddler) named Elva. And I’ve known a young Mozelle (perhaps 15 years younger than me?) and know of a 2-year-old Veda.

I actually see Coy a lot around here, it seems to be more popular among older Hispanics. And of course, Hosea was recently on Top Chef, and won.

Names on the list I really like:
Florine
Idella
Glenna

Garland
Dewitt
Theron
Price

MissusAytch Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Have an old college friend named Floy. She was named after a great grandmother I think. It’s also great to see my great uncles name, Major, and especially my grandfathers name, Winfred. I’ve never seen it anywhere before! (His given name was Nolan Winfred, but he went by Winfred or Dick. Needless to say, Nolan is the name we use in the family to honor him .)

A lot of the girls names, such as Zella and Elva, sound very usable today, perhaps because of the preponderance of “ell” sounds. The boys names not so much. They seem more dated. But then again most people are less adventurous with boys names than girls.

spotlightstarlit Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Zora, Hosea & Mose are all on my list!

Trillium Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I’ve always loved the name Elnora after readying the 1909 book “A Girl of the Limberlost” about a moth collecting country girl who pays her way to an education. What a cool namesake that would be! I also like the simpler Elora after a town in Ontario that I grew up near. Elwood is a family name so I have a soft spot for it.

katybug Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I love Alta, Zora/Zola, Mozelle and Theron! Garland and Dewitt are in my family tree, my 6th grade science teacher was named Ora, I went to school with a Letha, and I worked with a Treva (pronounced TREE-va). Really great list!

Jennai Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Alois was my grandpa’s name. He was born in 1916.

Arvid is fairly common nowadays. At least where I live.

I really like Leola for a girl!

As far as I know Maria/Mary and Josef/Joseph used to be common middle names for boys and girls.

melissa2 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I love this list; it’s very true to my grandparents’ rural generation. My own family tree has multiple Orphas (the “real” version of the name that got misspelled on Ms. Winfrey’s birth certificate), Olin and Mert. Also, I know two guys in their early 30s named Delbert and Linwood (he goes by Lin). Both are family names, and Delbert is about the hippest hipster I’ve met.

amylove Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I like Leola, Vada, Zola, Zora and Albina.

I can’t see Enola coming back, for sure.

mermuse Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Had a male professor named Clovis in college.

Also once knew a woman named Loy.

auroradawn Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I just wrote Mafalda down on a list TODAY! I was flipping through the Oxford Dictionary of Saints in the local library, scribbling down cool names, when I found Mafalda. So it’s a female saint’s name, and a Harry Potter name, too, no?
Isn’t it strange how coincidences like that occur?
This is a pretty cool list, too. I may have to come back from time to time. Most of these are not my style, but I think there are a few ready for revival.

caty_beth89 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Garland is an old family name in my family both as a first name for men and as a surname. It’s really the only name out of these that I could see myself using.

eyris Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 8:47 pm

My great-grandmother’s name was Zora. I have always loved it!

misskendra Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Does anyone LOVE. Treva as much as I do? Also price is good

Southernmomma Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Oh, my! So many family names on this list!
Maternal grandfather is Merton
Paternal grandmother’s mn is Albina
Aunt (in her early 50s, but named after my GPs good friend) is Myrtice
Great-aunt is Leola

Anakiwa Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 10:21 pm

I really enjoyed the names Erling and Eldred. The name Arvid is a great name also. Arvid meaning eagle tree and be norwegian in heritage is wonderful for me because I am norwegian and my Grandfather loves birds (he makes bird feeders for a hobby and loves watching them). I think Arvidka would be a great way to feminize the name.

jamee29 Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I have a cousin Delbert, a friend Cleta, an aunt Monnie, a sister-in-law Zelma and an uncle Dorsey! Wow, my family found a few of these names over the last few years. It makes me a proud Nameberry!

JaneyBB Says:

January 11th, 2013 at 10:37 am

I know a toddler called Elva. It’s a darling name.

MirandaSings Says:

January 11th, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I’ve heard of a lot of these names!
FIL is Garland and MIL is Anola
Niece is Anola
Aunt Glenna and Monnie (although that one is short for Monica)
Uncle with Talmadge as a middle name
I know a little boy named Coy, I think it’s adorable

neuilly Says:

January 13th, 2013 at 12:35 am

I know multiple DeWitts – different ages and different areas. I don’t find it unheard if at all.

jenmcel Says:

January 16th, 2013 at 4:34 am

Great list! Definitely think Zora can be revived – I love it

arunciblespoon Says:

January 16th, 2013 at 7:33 am

Loving the Z names! Zola, Zella and Zora are great and i liked Veda.

Mego0801 Says:

January 17th, 2013 at 8:36 am

I know someone named Garland! Mn Thomas. He has two sisters, Rosalie Norma Jean, and Jewel Lee. 🙂 Love these lists, very very interesting!!!! Thanks!

rach1212 Says:

January 17th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

My grandma’s father’s name was Ora! I’ve never seen it anywhere else until this blog! Very neat names. I often wonder what life was like back then!

amyhmasters Says:

January 27th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I think Idella is interesting. I wonder if it comes from Idellette – the wife of John Calvin in the Reformation?

Tiggerian Says:

March 28th, 2013 at 10:32 am

I quite like Exie and Elda! We did consider Elda both times we were expecting the boys though, but we received only negative feedback from others so dropped it again! Exie is kinda cute, but I’d only use it as a middlename!

Sassy Says:

March 28th, 2013 at 10:47 am

I know an Alta (she’s in her 70’s I think) and my friend’s youngest sister is Glenna (she’s in her 20’s).
I agree that some of the names could be clerical errors. I was doing some geneology research and I could find my grandfather and 2 of his 3 siblings but was having trouble finding the 3rd. I finally came across the census info and they had her listed as daughter Jim instead of Jean.

benjamelissa Says:

June 18th, 2013 at 9:39 am

Now this is my kind of list! Favorite girl is Era and favorite boy is Theron, but love lots of theses. Thanks a million! My mom mentions a Lethie in our ancestry and I know a Glenna. Knew a Veda. Went to school with a Treva. Knew a Monnie and an Exie. And Enola from Waterworld and the Enola Gay aircraft. I had an uncle Wilburn. My son has a Major in his class. And my husband knows an Arvid. Cool, Cool names.

lexical Says:

June 26th, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I love this list! Definitely some gold buried in here 🙂

pattyanniee Says:

September 28th, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I do love Lilah (but prefer Lila) and Hazel, however, they are quickly gaining popularity, which is diminishing my love for them.

LittlePatch8 Says:

November 10th, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I think my favourites from that list are Garland (boy) and Vada (girl).

Another Update | The Real Me Says:

November 11th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

[…] I randomly found this on Facebook: http://nameberry.com/blog/the-lost-names-of-1913 […]

CsprsSassyHrly Says:

November 26th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I agree with LittlePatch8… Garland and Vada are my favorite from this list, though, unlike most people, I actually prefer Garland for a girl (and used it as a girl’s name in a story I was writing).

I’ve never heard of Fairy as a baby’s name. I much rather prefer Faye, which apparently means fairy.

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