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What were the most popular vintage baby names?

We've been exploring classic baby names from the Regency period to Edwardian times in our family history records. Plus, discover your historical name with our interactive quiz.

Whether you’re after some old-timey names for your newborn, or you’re just curious about historical trends, we looked to civil birth records and census records to find the most popular names throughout the ages. 

Did your ancestors follow the trends when naming their children? Read on to find out.  

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Remember, royal baby names often set the trends for everyone else, and they’re easy to spot if you know the royal family tree.

What's the most common middle name in your family tree?

Posted by Findmypast on Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Take a look at your family tree and see if you can spot traditional baby names like George, Victoria or Edward which have stood the test of time.

What were the most popular Regency-era names? 

Have you ever fancied yourself starring in a Jane Austen novel adaptation? Or perhaps in Bridgerton? We looked to our parish baptisms to find the most popular old-fashioned baby names for the year 1834.

If you were born in the time of Pride and Prejudice or Sanditon, you might not be a Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, but you might have been called William, John or Thomas. Leading ladies, your names would range from Nancy and Elizabeth to Mary and Sarah

What were the most common Victorian baby names? 

Civil registration began in 1837, so from the Victorian era, we can use civil birth records. If you were born in the early 1840s at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s long reign, there were a lot of Williams around. Over 47,000 of them in 1844, to be exact. This is unsurprising, given Victoria’s predecessor was her uncle, William IV. 

Topping the charts in 1844 for traditional girls’ names was Nancy, with over 63,000 girls born that year with the name. Anne and Mary gained popularity, achieving around 100,000 between them. Victoria trailed behind with only 148. 

If we skip ahead to 1884, the top ranked baby names change slightly. Nancy is knocked off the top spot by Mary (with 73,000 girls having the name). For the boys, William remains ahead, with John and Henry close behind.

Queen Victoria died in 1901, making way for the Edwardian era. Victoria and Albert’s eldest son became King Edward VII, and his reign ushered in more baby name trends. Birth records from 1904 show William, John and George as the most popular boys’ names, and Mary, Florence and Doris for girls. 

The First World War raged from 1914-1918. Babies born in 1914 were most likely to be called John or Mary, with William and Margaret in close second place. Despite King George V being on the throne, the name George was only in third place.

Behind the name 

Ever wondered what the meaning is behind your old-fashioned name? We explored some of the most popular traditional names to find where they come from.

John 

John is the Latin form of the Greek name Ioannes, which is derived from the Hebrew name Yochanan. Its popularity comes from figures featured in the New Testament, and during the Middle Ages it was given to around a fifth of all English boys.

William 

This comes from the Germanic Willahelm, which means ‘will helmet’. The name became popular with William the Conqueror, three English kings and several Scottish kings. It topped the charts for boys’ names throughout the 19th century.

Henry 

From the Germanic for ‘home ruler’, the name Heinrich was popular among continental royalty. The Normans introduced the name to England and it was given to eight English kings, including Henry V and Henry VIII.

Leicester baptisms from 1832

Some popular names featured in Leicestershire Baptisms in 1832.

Mary 

This is the English form of Maria, the Latin form of the Greek New Testament name. Though its true meaning isn’t known, Mary is thought to mean ‘rebelliousness’ or ‘wished for child’. The name has been popular throughout the ages because of the Virgin Mary in Christianity.

Elizabeth 

From the Greek form of the Hebrew name Elisheva, meaning ‘god is an oath’, Elizabeth was the name of a 12th century saint, St Elizabeth of Hungary, and has been popular in the Britain since the reign of Elizabeth I. 

Margaret 

The name comes from the Greek margarites, which means ‘pearl’. St Margaret was the patron saint of expectant mothers, and the name has been popular in Britain since the Middle Ages.

Which popular historical baby names are in your family tree? Share your discoveries with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram