Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Victorian Smiths - an overview

The Victorian Smiths changed in their naming habits between March 1840 and Dec 1909. Though Mary stayed steadfast at the top throughout most of the Victorian era, by Edwardian times it had been overtaken by Florence, with Doris snipping at its heels.

The number of girls given the top names also decreased - Mary's best period was 1860-4 when 3248 Smiths were named Mary. By 1905, the top name, Florence, charted merely 1250 births. This is an even bigger decrease when you look at the population statistics for England in that time. In 1861, the population of England was almost 18.8 million, by 1901 it was 30.5 million and in 1911 it was 33.6 million. This population growth did not come merely from immigrants - born elsewhere so that their birth and name records would not be counted - it came from more children surviving infancy and so breeding more children to survive infancy - an improvement in healthcare and sanitation, without contraception.

However, I understand that the birth records take into account the births of children who never reached maturity (eg died age 2) and so does not exactly correlate with the population growth (and I think my data also included Scotland and Wales). However, the change is shown over the generations - if one generation has five children (all baptised, all included in my data) but two die before having children of their own, and then the three go on to have five children each then I will note twenty names overall. But if none of the children die, and they all have five children then that gives thirty names overall. So there should be some effect on the names.

Basically, the reduction of Mary (and the top names' in general) popularity from 3000 births to 1000 births is even more dramatic considering that there should be more births.

Anyway, onto graphs. I wanted to see if names that peaked in the same decades had the same arcs of popularity. I think that the graphs speak for themselves.

1840s: Maria (blue), Jane (red) and Caroline (green).

1850s: Eliza (dark blue, diamonds), Hannah (red), Martha (green), Emma (purple) and Harriet (light blue, stars)

1860s: Mary (blue), Elizabeth (red), Sarah (green) and Fanny (purple).

1870s: Emily (dark blue, diamonds), Louisa (red, squares), Catherine (green, triangles), Charlotte (purple, x), Isabella (light blue, star), Ann (orange, circle), Alice (light blue, line), Ada (red, straight), Margaret (green, straight), Clara (purple, diamond), Kate (light blue, square), Frances (orange, triangle), Lucy (light blue, cross), Isabel (pink, cross) and Eleanor (light green, circle).

1880s: Ellen (dark blue), Rosa (red), Ruth (green), Beatrice (purple), Maud (light blue) and Bertha (orange).

1890s: Annie (dark blue, diamond), Ethel (red, square), Mabel (green, triangle), Daisy (purple), Florence (light blue, star), Edith (orange), Elsie (light blue, line), Lily (pink) and Nell (green). Eh, ok something to point out - they all start from nothing.

1900s: Dorothy (dark blue, diamond), Rose (red), May (green, triangle), Jessie (purple, cross), Doris (light blue, star), Gladys (orange), Winifred (light blue, line), Hilda (pink), Ivy (green, straight), Violet (purple, diamond) and Olive (light blue, square). Like 1890s, these come from nothing to their dizzy heights of popularity.