The Least Popular American Baby Names According to Early Records

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Update (5/9): Noah and Sophia were the top names of 2013.

Like a lot of people, I have been entranced by this animated map of the most popular baby names for girls by state over the past 50+ years. It shows how the country shifted from Mary to Lisa before giving over completely to Jennifer, after which the Jessica/Ashley and Emily/Emma battles eventually resolved into the current dominance of Sophia. The map was created by Reuben Fischer-Baum of Deadspin using baby name data from the Social Security Administration. The SSA website gives the top 1000 boy and girl names (as reported on social security card applications) for each year from 1880 onward.

This brief historical tour of the most popular names got me curious about the least popular names. If you look at the low end of the top 1000 names for 2012, you see boys’ names like Dangelo, Foster, Jaidyn, Briggs and Davon. For girls, you see names like Katalina, Hayleigh, Sloan, Karlie, and Meadow. These names are a bit different, but not all that unusual. Even the 1000th most popular name represents a few hundred babies, or even a few thousand if added up over four or five years. However, in the early years of SSA data, the population was much smaller, so the low end of the list represents fewer babies. And there are some pretty fabulous names in there. 

I went through first 53 years of the SSA records and pulled out some of the best boy and girl names from the 900 to 1000 range for each year. Together, they make for great couples. I love imagining that among all the Johns and Marys who settled down together, Orange and Leafy (1893), or Henery and Florance (1897), or Lillian the boy and Lillyan the girl (1908) might have found each other too.

If you’re looking for a baby name and want something truly original, but with historical precedent, here’s your list:

Year Boy (Rank) Girl (Rank)
1880 Handy (970) Parthenia (914)
1881 Okey (972) Erie (1000)
1882 Ab (943) Dove (944)
1883 Commodore (925) Lovey (992)
1884 Spurgeon (958) Kathern (974)
1885 Fount (989) Icy (977)
1886 Squire (953) Texie (987)
1887 Bliss (946) Lockie (907)
1888 Boss (930) Indiana (989)
1889 Starling (962) Easter (967)
1890 Lawyer (999) Pinkey (918)
1891 Manley (962) Chestina (974)
1892 Little (914) Odell (1000)
1893 Orange (1000) Leafy (933)
1894 Flem (1000) Ova (986)
1895 Toy (969) Sister (974)
1896 Josephine (937)* Clifford (935)*
1897 Henery (1000) Florance (1000)
1898 Pleasant (973) Tiny (915)
1899 Fate (972) Cuba (884)
1900 Gorge (935) Electa (948)
1901 Joesph (999) Buelah (923)
1902 Rolla (917) Bama (942)
1903 Ples (992) Capitola (982)
1904 Council (989) Pearly (993)
1905 Son (912) Wava (967)
1906 Virgle (999) Carry (971)
1907 Geo (956) Arizona (949)
1908 Lillian (992) Lilyan (991)
1909 Murl (1000) Flonnie (1000)
1910 Lemon (964) Classie (994)
1911 Wash (978) Lavada (806)
1912 Christ (940) Almeta (940)
1913 Louise (982) Louis (974)
1914 Stephan (1000) Vella (1000)
1915 Mayo (990) Dimple (980)
1916 Green (929) Golden (908)
1917 Elza (968) Loyce (984)
1918 Curley (998) Ivory (979)
1919 Metro (982) Louvenia (993)
1920 Berry (941) Merry (934)
1921 Reno (969) Glendora (976)
1922 Author (950) Gaynell (981)
1923 Burley (994) Dorathy (995)
1924 Dorman (954) Mardell (982)
1925 Buddie (973) Bobbye (990)
1926 Wardell (929) Willodean (941)
1927 Estel (914) Gregoria (970)
1928 Gust (996) Hildred (998)
1929 Vester (984) Jettie (953)
1930 Otho (972) Charlsie (951)
1931 Early (1000) Ferne (1000)
1932 Dock (928) Jack (992)

* Not an error!

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October 23, 2013 - 1:00pm
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