America’s Top Baby Names Over the Last Century

Family History
3 January 2020
by Rebecca Dalzell

First names go in and out of fashion, as evidenced by the fact you probably haven’t received any birth announcements recently about babies called Harold or Doris.

In the 1930s, though, those names were among the top 10 most common in the U.S., according to the Social Security Administration*.

Here are the most common names given to U.S. babies between 1919 and 2018.

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The 10 Most Popular Girls’ Names Over the Last Century

Mother holding baby in her arms.

1 Mary

Mary was the most popular girl's name during every decade from 1920 until 1960, when it slipped to the #2 position (behind “Lisa," which hit the top 10 for the first time that decade). Although the name Mary hasn't been among the top 10 most popular names since, 3.3 million girls were named Mary over the past 100 years. Between 2010 and 2018, the name fell to #125 and there were only 23,000 girls named Mary.

2 Patricia

There have been 1.5 million girls named Patricia in the last 100 years. The name first made the top 10 list in the 1930s, and it stayed on the list until the 1970s, when popular girls' names changed quite a bit (that's when we first see names like Jennifer, Heather, Stephanie, and Nicole in the top 10).

3 Jennifer

Although Jennifer was only on the top 10 list in the 1970s and 1980s, it was still among the 10 most common girl's names, with 1.4 million baby girls named Jennifer in the last century. If you meet an adult named Jennifer, the odds are good that she was born in the '70s or '80s.

4 Linda

The bulk of the last century's 1.4 million Lindas were born in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s—the only years that name appeared on the list of 10 most popular names.

5 Elizabeth

On the other hand, more of the 1.4 million babies named Elizabeth were born in the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s.

The sixth through tenth most popular girl’s names in the past century were, in order, Barbara, Susan, Jessica, Sarah, and Karen.

The Most Common Boys’ Names

Father holding child.

1 James

Since 1919, about 4.7 million boys have been called James, a popular name that shows up on the top 10 list every decade until falling off the list in the 1990s and 2000s. It reappeared at #9 in 2010.

2 John

4.5 million boys were named John in the last century, although the name is dipping in popularity. It dropped out of the top 10 boy's names in the 1990s and hasn't made the list since.

3 Robert

Robert (4.5 million) was in the top three from the 1920s through the 1950s. It was #5 in the 1960s, then #7 in the 1970s, and #8 in the 1980s. By the 1990s, it was gone from the top 10 altogether.

4 Michael

Michael (4.3 million) was first popular at #9 in the 1940s, then held steady as the #1 or #2 name through the 2000s. That's why we all know so many people called “Mike P.," “Mike S.," and “Mike T." In the 2010s, though, the name didn't make the top 10 list at all.

5 William

As for the name William (3.6 million), it was one of the top 10 during every decade in the past century except the 1980s and 1990s. Starting in the 2000s, though, it snuck back into the list at #10. In the 2010s, it moved up to #5. Perhaps its renewed popularity had to do with England's Prince William?

The sixth through tenth most common boy’s names over the last 100 years, in order, were David, Richard, Joseph, Thomas, and Charles.

Here’s a side-by-side look at the top ten baby boy and baby girl names.

List of top baby names.

What’s Next

What’s trending now? In the 2010s, several names appeared in the top 10 list of names for the first time, including Sophia, Ava, and Charlotte for girls, and Noah, Liam, and Elijah for boys.

Will those names remain among the most popular over the next century? We’ll see.

In the meantime you can find inspiration in your family tree. Get started today with an Ancestry® free trial.

*Based on the Social Security Administration site, “Popular names of the period period 2010 – 2018.”