Top 25 Names in Boston, 1710-1715
A few things struck me about this data:
The top names are overwhelmingly popular. For girls, the top three names account for 49% of all names and the top ten account for 81%. For boys, the top three names account for 39% of all names and the top ten account for 69%.
Compare these numbers with their modern equivalents: today's top 10 names account for less than 10 percent of all names given in a single year.
Also, I was astonished by the number of different boys' names (116) vs. girls' names (61). The male names are taken from the Bible, traditional English names, and surnames, while the girls' names are Biblical, English, and virtue names. I suppose it makes sense that a mostly Bible-based name pool would yield more male names, but I wasn't expecting twice as many.
Yet, I am also surprised by the Biblical names that are not on this list. As David Hackett Fischer noted in Albion's Seed, there were oodles of New England men named John, but not many named Paul, Mark, Luke, or Matthew (none in my sample). It seems that these Bostonians may have recognized three distinct classes of Biblical names: Old Testament names, New Testament names that were already popular in England, and New Testament names that had shallower roots in England. The first category gives you Abraham, Isaac, and Ephraim, the second offers John and Thomas, and third might include names like Andrew and Bartholomew. The third category is not well represented on the top 25 list.
What accounts for the abundance of English, non-biblical names among the top 25 names in Boston? Did the practice of naming children for their parents (as outlined by Fischer) preserve a thread of Englishness in naming practices? Was 18th-century Boston more worldly than 17th-century Windsor? Was Boston home to increasing numbers of immigrants, English and otherwise, during the first decades of the 18th century?
These are all questions historians have been chewing over since Bernard Bailyn wrote The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century in 1955. I think that name data is an interesting way of rethinking Boston.