Posted by on 10 April 2014 in General
The Children's Corner, Bournemouth (image from Historical Postcards Collection)

The Children’s Corner, Bournemouth (image from Ancestry Historical Postcards Collection)

Analysis of millions of birth records from 1905 to the present day shows some first names that are disappearing or virtually extinct. 

Many of the nation’s most traditional names are at risk of dying out according to a report released today by family history website Ancestry, which reveals forenames that have virtually disappeared over the last 100 years and many more that have become ‘endangered’.

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Three categories of names are detailed in the study, which was compiled by comparing the popularity of forenames from 1905 to now through Ancestry’s extensive birth record collections. The most ‘critical’ names on the list are those that have seemingly disappeared (by not being selected for new babies) and include Gertrude, Bertha and Blodwen for girls and Willie, Cecil and Rowland for boys.

Many more are labelled ‘endangered’, having fallen drastically in popularity for newborns today despite being among the top 100 names in 1905. Examples include Norman, Horace and Leslie for boys and Doris, Hilda and Edna for girls.

Lastly there are those that, while still being selected, are significantly less common and tend to dip in and out of fashion — identified as ‘at risk’. Such names for boys are Cyril, Arnold and Bernard and include Mildred, Dorothy and Lilian for girls.

Many popular names from the early 20th century have also evolved to their shorter form, which has replaced their previous name in popularity. Termed the ‘Alfie effect’, this trend has seen Freddie replace Frederick, Archie overtake Archibald and Charlie become far more popular now than Charles. The same applies to girls’ names, with Lexi replacing Alexandra, Sophia making way for Sophie and Ellie overtaking Eleanor.

The analysis also showed far more girls’ names disappearing or ‘at risk’ than boys — thought to be because many men’s names are passed on from father to son, whereas mothers’ names are more likely to be selected as middle names, rather than forenames, for daughters.

Surprisingly perhaps, many of the most popular names of 1905 remain common today, perhaps driven by the fact that one in three parents (34 per cent) choose their child’s name to commemorate an ancestor. Such names include Lily, Hannah and Lydia for girls and Alan, Patrick and Joe for boys.

Finally, a number of older names have grown in popularity or become fashionable recently, overtaking the level of popularity seen in the early 1900s. Oliver, Charlie and Jacob fall into this category, as do Amelia, Grace and Isabella.

Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry comments: “Of course, no first name can truly become extinct, as it can easily be resurrected, but it’s fascinating to look at the list from 1905 and see which have thrived and which have faded into obscurity.

“We also know that people appreciate a rare or unusual name in their family tree and as more people join the family history revolution we believe that such endangered names will be protected by concerned descendants.”


Full list of Endangered Names

‘Extinct’ (None recorded in latest birth records)

Male — Cecil, Rowland & Willie

Female — Bertha, Blodwen, Fanny, Gertrude, Gladys, Margery, Marjorie & Muriel


Endangered (have fallen in prevalence by 99% since 1905)

Male — Clifford, Horace, Harold, Leslie & Norman

Female — Doris, Edna, Ethel, Hilda, Marion & Phyllis


At risk (have fallen in prevalence by 98% since 1905)

Male — Arnold, Bernard, Clarence, Cyril, Ernest, Fred, Herbert, Percy, Roland, Sydney, Trevor & Walter.

Female — Ann, Dorothy, Eveline, Freda, Gwendoline, Irene, Jane, Janet, Jennie, Lilian, Lizzie, Margaret, Mary, Maud, Mildred, Nellie, Rhoda & Winifred


Booming traditional names (risen in popularity since 1905)

Male — Christopher, Harry, Sam, Samuel, Louis, Evan, Owen, Louie, Michael, Reuben, Benjamin, Matthew, Lewis, Jack, Alexander, Daniel, Isaac, Jacob, Charlie, Oliver

Female — Amelia, Charlotte, Daisy, Eleanor, Eliza, Emily, Eva, Grace, Harriet, Isabel, Isabella, Leah, & Lucy