Tag Archives: naming traditions

TOP TEN Popular Names on My Family Tree

Popular names

WordArt.com 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??


New Twig: Skylar Rose Walters

A very special week. February 23, 2016 marks the birth of Skylar Rose Walters.  The first of our grand daughters gave birth to the first of our great-grand daughters. (Not to slight our first grandson and his two delightful little boys–our first great-grandsons.)

When my grand nephew was born a short time ago, I wrote about his name William and how that name has deep roots in our family tree. Since then I’ve found even more Williams in my paternal line in addition to the plethora in the maternal line.

If the new baby girl were to be named for the most common name in my family tree, it would be Elizabeth, with all its variants–Lizzie, Betty, Betsy,  Beth, Bess or Bessie, Letty/Lettie, Lisa/Liza, Libby, Elsie, and more, Mary, of course, would be a contender for most used name as well.


But Skylar is definitely a unique name, and a very pretty one.  I was surprised that according to one web site Skylar is the 48th most common name for little girls these days. It has soared in popularity in the last few years, from something like 1000 three or four years ago. The good news is, Skylar will probably not have three other little Skylars in her kindergarten class. Although it is becoming more popular, it is still not the most common. Newsweek reports on predicted most popular names for 2016, a mixture of the old traditional Biblical names (Nathaniel) and the new and odd (Zephyr).


Once upon a time, families had a strict naming pattern.  For instance some of our German ancestors always put a saint’s name in front of the name the person would actually be called. They might have a family of six boys, whose “first” name was Johann (John), but their actually identification would be by middle name.  This can be confusing to our generation that thinks we need to call people by their first name, and confusing when genealogical records like census data are recorded by that first name, ignoring the second, or “real” name.  Consider brothers John Henry Butz, John Joseph Butz and John George Butz, and their father Johann Wilhelm Butts, not to mention their sisters Anna Cataharina Butz and Anna Maria Butz.

first birthday

Vera May Stout Anderson holding namesake Vera Marie Kaser, spring of 1940, around first birthday

A common practice called for naming the first-borns for their grandparents.  For instance, I am named Vera Marie for my maternal grandmother Vera and my paternal grandmother Mary.  But you may not always want to follow that practice.  If my husband and I had a girl, she would have had to be named Agnes Harriette. Not my favorite combination.

Once the grandparents were honored with names, the next child would be named for his/her mother or father. That accounts for a long string of Williams in our Puritan line.

After that came the names of brothers and sisters of the mother and father.  All of those patterns are very helpful to the genealogist, although the use of the SAME name generation after another for six or seven generations can get quite confusing.


Our second son was named Michael, just because we liked the name, and it turned out so did a third of the parents of other boys in his grade school classes.  (I don’t regret using a common names with the uncommon last name of Badertscher, however.)

Parents  now search for unusual names.  If young parents today want an unusual name, they can look to movie stars’ children–eg. Apple, Rocket Sageblood or Rainbow.

Or they can look to their ancient ancestors.

The Puritans were particularly adept at mining obscure names from the Bible. (You can read about some of the odd names on my family tree here.)  My own family tree has more than one Hepzibah, a couple of Thankfuls and one that puzzles me–Waitstill, in addition to boys named after prophets and girls named after women in the Bible, even the racier ones like Bathsheba.


I’m not at all sure about my grand daughter’s maternal line, or her husband’s tree, but her paternal line does include a few Dutch branches.  It is clear that the name derived from the similarly pronounced Schuyler, a Dutch family name, not a first name.

I was all set to riff on the information that Schuyler, and thus Skylar derives from the Dutch word for scholar, but sadly, that frequently stated connection apparently is not true. The Dutch word for scholar is quite different.

Another theory advanced is that Schuyler derives from a Dutch word for shelter, but I’ve seen that theory shot down as well.

The fact is that the meanings you read on the Internet for the name are invented.  So I’d like to invent my own meaning for my great-great-granddaughter, Skylar Rose. Honey, you are going to be a BEAUTIFUL and BRILLIANT person, and I would give you shelter any day.

How We Are Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the mother of
  • Kenneth Paul Badertscher, who is the father of
  • Bethany Dawn Badertscher Walters, who is the mother of
  • Skylar Rose Walters