Here are a couple of sites for determining the popularity of names. First up, is the Social Security Administration, and I assume they are basing it on new applications for Social Security cards (although they may have access to birth certificate data); the most recent year is 2007. It’s pretty interesting, because it has several different sections so you can look up popular baby names in different ways. From the SSA website you can instantly…
- see what the top 10 most popular names for both boy and girl are in 2007
- see what the most popular names were the year you were born (from the top 20 to the top 1000 [yes, one thousand])
- see how popular your name has been by year, all the way back to 1880
- see what the top 1000 names have been by decade, all the way back to 1880
- see the top 5 names in each state by year, back to 1980
This is interesting and important to me, because my personal preference is that my child has a name that is… not common or trendy, but not completely made up or “out there.” I have actually removed some names from my mental “baby name” lists because they were in the top 25 names, and I didn’t want my child to be surrounded by a dozen other children with the same or similar name. At my small junior college (2500 people), every class I was in had at least one Jennifer and Jessica in it, and many had more than one.
Of course, you may not realize how popular a name is, and think you are naming your child something fairly unique… which is why websites like these can be good, because you can see if there are any trends for a name. The inspiration for this post is a discussion one of my email lists that sprang up from someone happening to mention that she knew of three babies born recently (or yet to be born) who are named Jackson, and everybody chimed in with their “Jackson” stories. Well, using the SSA baby name search, you can see the trend for “Jackson” since 1880, when it was fairly popular (#247 — probably a lot of Southern boys named after Stonewall Jackson or other famous men), and how it fluctuated through the years (dropping down into the #800s in 1966), and then how it has skyrocketed in the late 80s (dropping from the 500s to below 200 in about 6 years), and has continued that through the 90s up to today, so that now “Jackson” is #33, as of 2007!
While you can’t always predict a trend skyrocketing like that, many times you can — especially if the trend seems to be on a downward spiral.
And here’s another website with a different twist on it — a graphical representation of the popular names, as well as trends. It’s a very interesting visual! Personally, I like the plain text “report” from the SSA better, but many people are a lot more “visual” so would get more out of the second one. It looks a lot cooler, I will admit!
Here’s a poll for you (you may not be able to see it if you are reading it through Google Reader or something, so if you can’t see it, you’ll need to click through to the actual blog):