Saturday, 21 October 2017

Popular Names in Ireland

Previous generations in Ireland had little imagination when it came to choosing names for their children. The limited variety poses a serious challenge in my genealogy research, so much so, I almost dread the search for yet another John, or Mary. It’s a huge relief when the pursuit centres on someone with a more unusual name. Even familiar names like Andrew or Alice, for example, can greatly enhance the prospects for success.

So, I thought I’d examine my family tree to see just how popular the leading names really were. And, it’s true, John and Mary topped the list, each being held by about one in every ten people. Further, the top five names accounted for nearly a third (32%) of all males, with a similar number (30%) for females. 

Given Names Family Tree
Number
Percentage
Total males
644

Total females
593

Most Popular Male Names


1.   John
61
9%
2.   James
46
7%
3.   Thomas
38
6%
4.   Patrick
35
5%
5.   Michael
34
5%
Most Popular Female Names


1.     Mary
63
11%
2.     Margaret
34
6%
3.     Catherine
32
5%
4.     Elizabeth
25
4%
5.     Anne
24
4%
Based on analysis of my family tree software

Roman Catholic priests may have contributed to this confusion – they seemingly refused to baptise a child except with the name of a saint. However, traditional naming patterns undoubtedly played a part. Families mostly named children after the grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, such that the exact same names were passed down, generation after generation, and replicated by each member of the family.  

This absence of diversity, which occurred throughout Ireland, can be proven by analysing the data available in the 1901 census.[1] A similar list of five names, swapping only Michael for William, was held by a whopping 50% of the male population overall, with Michael coming in a close sixth.

Given Names 1901 Census
Number
Percentage
Total males
2,181,960

Total females
2,236,653

Most Popular Male Names


1.   John
348,524
16%
2.   James
228,521
10%
3.   Thomas
197,033
9%
4.   Patrick
163,544
7%
5.   William
151,841
7%
Most Popular Female Names


1.     Mary
455,724
20%
2.     Bridget
153,469
7%
3.     Margaret
125,328
6%
4.     Ellen
113,632
5%
5.     Anne
100,746
5%
Based on analysis of 1901 Census of Ireland

You may think there was more variation in the female names, with the top five  accounting for ‘a mere’ 43% of the female population. But, these figures exclude nicknames like Maggie and Annie, themselves also being listed among the top ten. And, the names Catherine, Kate and Elizabeth were way up there too.

My family tree may have beaten the odds slightly. Still, it’s no wonder, it’s far easier to track someone fortunate enough not to have a name mentioned here! 

[1] Census of Ireland, 1901, National Archives of Ireland (the census data is known to contain errors, though, it provides a good overall indication of the position).

…………………
© Black Raven Genealogy

7 comments:

  1. Patrick sounds like an Irish name. Before 1800 I used patronimics in my tree, as they actually used to do, even my dad still did it to distinguish cousins (Teun of Bette, Teun of Janne, etc.); so I can't really do a proper count of surnames since both patronimics and spelling differ a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So, having said that, we're mostly looking at ancestors after 1800 showing:
    Voornaam Aantal
    Jan 44 (Dutch for John)
    Cornelis 32
    Pieter 30
    Adriaen 19
    Willem 19
    for male ancestors &
    For female ancestors I already have a problem there, since both Lijsbeth
    & Elizabeth are in the top 5, which are basically the same names.

    ReplyDelete
  3. John, or a variant thereof, was probably the most common name across the western world. It would be interesting to see how you top names compare to the overall totals in the Netherlands. Thank you, for your comment, Joan.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes! I have many of those same Irish names! And I am sure that the priests are partially responsible. My parents gave me the name Colleen Gail but the priest (here in the USA) gave me the name Colleen Patricia at Baptism so I would have a saint's name.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wasn't 'Abigail' the wife of King David in the Old Testament? You'd think that would have been enough!

    ReplyDelete
  6. There's a lot more variation in the Protestant population.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Proving' it really was the priest's fault, Claire! :-) Do you know if there was as much variation in the names chosen by working-class Protestant families, as there was by gentry families?

      Delete

I look forward to reading your comments, even more especially if you're related to someone mentioned in this post.

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