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Census Records Can Teach Us About Our Ancestors' Naming Patterns
Published: 25 March 2010
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

As I indicated in my last article, in this article I will explore some of the ways that we can learn more about our ancestor's naming patterns.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries some names were actual first names not titles such as: Major, Admiral, Squire, Pharaoh, Doctor, Lieutenant and Empress. This can really lead to confusion.

I found the family of Jesse Hodges to be very interesting. There is certainly an usual mix of names among the children. Among the eight children we find three with more unusual names: King Henry Hodges, Queen Ann Hodges and Missouri Hodges. The rest all have usual names.

(Census Year: 1880; District 1157, Berrien Co., Georgia, Family History Film: 1254134; Pg.: 610; ED: 5; Image: 403.)

I found one Pharaoh Hodges in the 1880 census. He had siblings named Mary, Tempest and Ferriby.

(Census Year: 1880; Goldsboro, Wayne Co., North Carolina; Family History Film: 1254986;
Pg.: 468; ED: 292; Image: 0519.)

I also found 72 other individuals with that name with two of them being named King Pharaoh.

I found Doctor Hodges as a one-year-old child in the household of Nancy Hodges. The other children had more usual names: Fanny, Nicholas and Josiah. (Census Year: 1880; Rocky Mount, Franklin Co., Virginia; Family History Film: 1255366; Pg.: 146; ED: 107.)

It is always important to check and see if there are other family members in the area. I found 222 Hodges individuals living in the Rocky Mount area. These should all be recorded so that they could be checked out.

I found 22 ladies by the name of Empress in the 1880 census.

There were 95 individuals with the name Admiral in the 1880 census.

Many nineteenth and early twentieth century daughters, especially in the South, received the names of flowers: Violet, Pansy, Iris, Rose, Daisy and Lily. Many times when you find individuals from the north with these names you will discover that the family had southern roots.

In looking through the census records I found the following:
  • In 1850 I found 1 Violet Hodges and 952 individuals named Violet.
  • In 1850 I found 7 individuals named Pansy with it increasing to 3,166 in 1900.
  • In 1910 I found 2 Iris Hodges and 4,266 individuals named Iris.
  • In 1860 I found 3 Rose Hodges and 18,177 individuals named Rose.
  • In 1880 I found 3 Daisy Hodges and 16,411 individuals named Daisy. This was an increase from 1850 when there were 179 individuals named Daisy.
You will also find southern women named for gems: Ruby, Jewel, and Opal. You may find some northern women with these names but usually their family has southern roots.
  • In 1880 I found 1 Ruby Hodges and 18 in 1900. By 1880 there were 3,984 individuals named Ruby.
  • In 1910 I found 2 Jewel Hodges and 7,940 individuals named Jewel.
  • In 1870 I found 41 individuals named Opal.
You will also find some given names are regional.

In the 1880 census I found 19 individuals with the first name Bubba. They were all from 3 different states: 2 were from Texas; 7 were from Georgia and 10 were from South Carolina.

You will also find many people from the South with hyphenated names: Billy-Bob, Bobby-Sue, Billy-Ray, Bobby-Ellen and many variations of these.

In the next article I will cover a few more name patterns and variations that we find in census records.

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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