TOP TEN Popular Names on My Family Tree

Popular names creates a word picture of the most popular names in my family tree

When Amy Johnson Crow sent out the challenge for this week for the 52 Ancestors challenge, favorite names, I immediately thought of those people whose odd names I had written about earlier, in a post I called, You Named Your Baby What?.  But then I turned to popular names

The Odd Names

From Aert, Abla and Alzana to Zelpha, Zelma and Zachias, there are plenty of one-off names in my family tree that qualify as unusual.

I have also always been fascinated by the naming traditions of the Puritans, who seemed to compete in who could find the most obscure Biblical names, or wished-for qualities.  Those popular names that poor little babies were saddled with include, in my family tree, Resolved, Thankful, Waitstill, Hopestill, Deliverance, Freegift, and one that would fit right into a hippy commune in the 1960s–Freelove.

My Personal Favorites

Emeline Cochran Stout

Emeline Cochran Stout, mother of Dr. Wm Stout. 1890s.

Aside from oddities, my own personal favorites include my great-great grandmothers, Emeline Stout and Isabella McCabe; the great-uncle who died in the Civil War, Erasmus Anderson; 1st cousin 7X removed–Love Stone; and 3rd cousin 1 x removed–Mandelay Zauk.  (I may have to research Mandelay’s family just to find out why they chose such an exotic (albeit misspelled) name.)




Then I got to wondering what my ancestors and family members named the majority of babies. If parents today wanted to follow tradition (as my nephew did in naming his first son), they might look at the family tree.

After all, current popular names have generally drifted far from the Puritan naming traditions, although the list for 2017, linked here, has some old-fashioned names showing up. Parents today don’t follow the older European tradition of “first son–paternal grandfather; second son–maternal grandfather; first daughter–paternal grandmother; second daughter–maternal grandmother, etc. etc.”

So I counted.

Turns out they were not as creative as my focus on Fountain and Salmon or Ima Bird might have indicated.  Just like the rest of the world, they were naming their babies by the popular names “John” and “Mary.”  The Mary may be deceptive because there are all those German ancestors who prefaced the name a person was actually called with the name of a saint, and understandably, Mary was a popular religious prefix.  Nevertheless, I counted them as Mary, because that’s what their “first” name was. ( John also was a popular prefix, in German in the form Johannes or Johan.)

The other reason for counting all the Marys as Marys is that there also is a high number of baby girls named “Hannah,” and for the most part, I don’t know whether that was just the name they went by, or they were originally named Mary. Because Hannah is a nickname for Mary. Go figure.  My aunt Maude was also a Mary, but was always called Maude, and there probably are other examples of Marys called something else that I didn’t catch.

This list is culled from 2536 people on my tree–some of whom do not have names. The nameless ones are generally infant deaths.  Dates range from the 16th century to the present.

  1. Mary
  2. Elizabeth/Elisabeth
  3. Sarah
  4. Hannah
  5. Ann/Anne/Anna
  6. Rebecca/Rebekah
  7. Martha
  8. Lydia
  9. Margaret
  10. Susan/Susana/Susannah
  1. John
  2. William
  3. Joseph
  4. George *
  5. James/Jim
  6. Thomas
  7. Samuel
  8. Daniel
  9. Robert
  10. Isaac**


*George frequently, but not always, was “George Washington.” Similarly, there were a fair number of Benjamin Franklins although not enough to make the list.

**Many of the Isaacs come from the Stout line where there was a string of Isaacs and Isaiahs. Interestingly Isaiah shows up on the current list of popular baby names.

So what names are popular on your family tree??


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4 thoughts on “TOP TEN Popular Names on My Family Tree

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      I was surprised about the Hannah, too. I have several Marys who went by Polly, but they were always Mary in the official records, so that’s where they are in my count. Trying to count shows you how slippery names are. For instance, my brother went by his middle name until he joined the Air Force, where everybody is called by first name (or last). He kept that first name for official business and close family members still call him by his first name. Exactly the same thing happened to a grandson. I am known to most people, and official records, by one name, but have a family nickname that lots of people know. One group doesn’t know the other name!!

  1. Michael

    Oh, I have a Waitstill and Thankful in my tree, too! Love Stone is pretty great, epic even.

    If I tallied names, I imagine my list would look pretty close to yours. I have Marys, Elizabeths, Johns, and Williams for days.


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