16 June 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How popular was the name Emily through the decades?

Well, I've been away from blogging for a few weeks. Frankly, I retreat when my hobby starts becoming stressful. And working full-time, exercising, taking a Russian class, blogging, indexing the 1940 U.S. Census and trying (and flailing!) to get some of my own genealogy/family history work done was getting to be too much. So, I pulled away from blogging for a few weeks.  Now I'm refreshed and ready to start anew.

I thought I'd start with a fun (and easy post). Randy Seaver, a prolific blogger, sponsors "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" each weekend: an opportunity and a challenge to post a blog on a topic he proposes.  Tonight's Genea-Musings prompt: "Tell us about how the popularity of your name has changed over the decades.  Were you named during the buildup, the height, or the drawdown of the popularity of your given name?"

Well, I've long considered the fact that the name "Emily" has become incredibly popular in the last twenty years as a sign that I have been an excellent caretaker and ambassador for the name.  In fact, I knew few Emilys when I was growing up (there were a couple of Emmys, but I scoffed at them for desecrating the name). Now, however, I've started to get over turning around every time I'm in a public place and a mother calls to her child, "Emily!" There are just so many!

So, following Randy's  suggestion I have checked the popular baby names website, entered the subject name and here are the results:

1880s: Rank 91; Percent with name 0.24%; number 3,368
1890s: Rank 94; Percent with name 0.23%; number 5,476
1900s: Rank 101; Percent with name 0.21%; number 6,421
1910s: Rank 102; Percent with name 0.20%; number 17,062
1920s: Rank 137; Percent with name 0.15%; number 18,743
1930s: Rank 170; Percent with name 0.11%; number 11,919
1940s: Rank 178; Percent with name 0.09% number 13,399
1950s: Rank 225; Percent with name 0.07%; number 12,836
1960s: Rank 251; Percent with name 0.07%; number 12,333
1970s: Rank 66; Percent with name 0.28%; number 46,824
1980s: Rank 25; Percent with name 0.71%; number 131,000
1990s: Rank 3; Percent with name 1.21%; number 237,000
2000s: Rank 1; Percent with name 1.14%; number 207,000 

Obviously, my parents were ahead of their times.  I was born in 1954, almost the nadir of the Emily phenomenon. But since I came into adulthood, my name has flourished among newborns.  So, I definitely take credit for this statistical tour de force.

Ashkenazi Jewish tradition is that children are named for deceased relatives of the same gender. Typically the parents use the Hebrew name of the deceased and come up with a local (in this case English) language equivalent using the same starting sound. My parents wanted to name me for my great grandfather Isidore (Yitzchak Leib) Morris.  The Yiddish equivalent of Yitchak is Itzik.  They took the starting sound and decided Emily was the name for me. I have a female cousin who was named Ilene for the same reason.

My parents apparently found out later from some rabbi that when male Hebrew names are converted into female equivalents, they may change quite a bit.  Whomever they consulted said that the female Hebrew name for Yitzchak Leib should be Gilah Gabora. Go figure. My mother used to laugh and tell me that I should have been named Gail.

While Abigail ranked 6 in the 2000s, at 0.75% and 136,000, the 1950s was the height for Gail:
Rank 44; Percent with name 0.43%; number 85,595

Imagine how popular that name would now be if I had gotten hold of it! 

The URL for this post is: http://extrayad.blogspot.com/2012/06/saturday-night-genealogy-fun-how.html

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