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Naming Patterns & Trends Found in Census Records
Column published: 04 March 2010
By: Shirley Gage Hodges Biography & Archived Articles
Census records can be very helpful when you are looking for naming patterns and trends.
You may be truly amazed with the variety of names when you start searching the census records for your families. Many families decided that they wanted some names with flavor.
In the 1880 census I found the following names:
It is interesting to see how quickly a name can rise and fall from popularity. There are many women my age named Shirley after Shirley Temple. I think almost every girl in my class at school had Jean as their middle name. (Perhaps for Jean Harlow).
Things can change quite rapidly. In 1924 for the first time the name Shirley made the top 10. Shirley Temple was born in 1928. She was in her first movie at the age of three. The name Shirley peaked in popularity in 1935 & 1936. By 1941 it was no longer in the top 10.
In the 1920 census there were 53,454 individuals named Shirley living in Michigan. In 1930 there were 161,093 individuals named Shirley in Michigan. The 1940 census will be released in two years. I am sure it will have really declined. I think that I know one young lady under 40 who is named Shirley. Also, in the Southern States, Shirley was a man's name.
It is difficult to construct our family's histories with the brief entries that we find. When I look at the census I am always humbled by how little I will actually ever know about the lives categorized in the census records of long ago. It is always a challenge to try and find out more about those lives, and where these little snippets found within the census itself or in other sources will lead me.
Start thinking about using the census for all kinds of searches. In future articles we will examine some of the ways that we can learn about our ancestor's lifestyles and living conditions.
Until next time :)
Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930
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