Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Victorian Smiths in the 1860s

Post 4 - to find out what this is about go here. Data is here.

Top 10:

1 Mary
2 Elizabeth
3 Sarah
4 Ann
5 Alice
6 Emma
7 Ellen
8 Jane
9 Emily
10 Margaret

A few changes here, Alice continues its rise up: into 5th position, and Jane tumbles to #9. Margaret joins the top 10 as Eliza leaves.

The top 3 names peak in these years. As I've already discussed Mary and Elizabeth, I will go through Sarah.

I'm not entirely sure whether with the surname 'Smith' if Sarah is over or underrepresented. On one hand Smiths may have chosen not to use Sarah to avoid alliteration, on the other hand, they could have chosen Sarah directly to get alliteration. Sarah is an Old Testament classic, Withycombe states that she arrived in England in the 12th century (along with other Hebrew/Biblical names - Mary, Anna, Elizabeth), but really took hold after the Reformation and return to more Biblical names. According to Redmonds' lists, Sarah rose from outside the top 20 from about 1570-9 to the #4 name 1660-1700. These lists show Sarah in the #3 spot, swapping places with Anne from Redmonds' lists (interestingly, Anne is rather underrepresented in the BMD lists, with 'Ann' having more births attributed to it. This may be because an Ann search also includes Annes (as Susan searches include Susannah)). Sarah is unusual in that there aren't very many bearers - particularly ignored in royal families, the only notable person of 'rank' was Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough and friend of Queen Anne. There are a few historical actresses- Sarah Bernhardt (who wasn't really famous until 1870s, so would have had little effect on the name's popularity in the 1860s, though may have attributed to its decline) and Sarah Siddons, an 18th century actress.

Top 10:
1 Mary
2 Elizabeth
3 Ann
4 Sarah
5 Alice
6 Emma
7 Jane
8 Emily
9 Ellen
10 Annie

Ann replaces Sarah at #3, Ellen drops down to #9, and Annie rises 5 places to replace Margaret at #10 (Margaret is at #11).

A name that experiences a steady rise, but never hits the top 10 is Fanny, and this name peaks in this period.

Fanny is a nickname for Frances, which has been rendered unusable in more recent years due to its usage as slang for various parts of a person (depending on American and British usage) not really wanted as a first name. However, it was fairly common in Victorian and Regency times and at this point was more popular than Frances itself. To me, Fanny has several more notable bearers than Sarah - Fanny (Frances) Burney, 18th century diarist and novelist, Fanny Brawne - beloved of poet John Keats, Fanny Adams - murder victim in 1867 - middle of this period, which may have led to the name's decline, and Fanny Price, heroine of Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park'.