When I was born my parents were conflicted over what to name me. My mom wanted the name “Henry,” which was the name my father was born with. My dad, who hated the name and went through life known as “Jack,” wanted to name me Theodore.
Mom’s reasoning was that Henry was a Taylor family name and it needed to be perpetuated. And she was right, but really just up to a point. There were just two Taylor ancestors with that name — my grandfather John Henry and my father. I grew up thinking there were a whole strong of them in the line — which began (as far as Ancestry.com has taken me) with Nicholas Taylor back in 1610.
Dad’s reasoning was he hated the name and was a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, Dad became a member of the Army’s mounted cavalry right out of college in the late '20s. On his discharge papers his horsemanship was noted as “excellent” and he was invited to join Philadelphia’s elite mounted cavalry known as The First City Troop.
The compromise was they’d officially name me Henry and they’d call me Ted (Teddy, actually, as I was growing up). And that stuck. All my school records are for Henry (Ted) Taylor. Sometimes people cannot find me when they go to standard search engines because they aren’t sure what my name is. Fun, huh? To keep the name alive, one of our sons is Brett Henry Taylor and his son is Brett Henry II.
On my mom’s side (the Roth family) there were a few with that name (or the German version, Heinrich). There were two Karl Heinrichs and a Henry J. (who thought they were naming me after him). Now had she opted for John, there she’d have found a few more on both sides. Among the Taylor family I found John William, John Henry, two guys just named John (one being a John Jr.). On the Roth side with went with Johannes (German for John), Johann and a guy in 1619 named Johannes Leonhard Rothus (suggesting that Mom’s family trimmed a couple of letters from the family name then). The first in her line, according to Ancestry, was Jacob Zeigler (1480-1549).
What started me down the name trail was a story from Shutterstock listing the most popular current names for kiddies. For boys, the top 10 include Liam, Noah, William, James, Oliver, Benjamin, Elijah, Lucas, Mason and Logan. A name to watch, they say, is Archie. That’s the name given to the latest British royal baby. They say the name cracked the top 1,000 for the first time since 1988. But when I hear Archie, I think of the sandal-wearing kid in the comics (Betty’s boyfriend) or the legendary Archie Bunker.
You’ll note that the newly popular names are harkening back to classic name from times long gone and Biblical names. The Social Security Administration has traced names back to 1880. They say that pop culture influences name choices. The names Liam and Emma are the most popular this year, again, while names that had been popular in the past, Jacob and Abigail, dropped out of the top 10.
Of the top 10 boys names our family has just a few dating back to the 1500s — clearly we never followed the leader. We had a pair of Benjamins (father and son, born 1680, then 1703, a James (born in 1715) and a William (born 1866). Names our family used and they didn’t included Peter (three of them, one our son), a bunch of men named Joseph, a Frances, a Charles, an Otto, a Georg (no “e”), Martinius (two of them), two Michaels, two named Hans.
Among girls, the top 10 are Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Sophia, Charlotte, Mia, Amelia, Harper and Evelyn. They say we should watch for the name Meghan (as in the Duchess of Sussex, Archie’s mom) to crack the top 10 next year. As far as any of those names in our family, we drew a zero. Among our female family names were Elizabeth (one in 1610, then three more 1843, 1846 and 1864) – none of them the actress. We had a few named Anna and a bunch of Marys, there were Marthas and Catherines, an Alice, a Mary Ellen, an Agatha (my 7th Great Grandmother), a Susannah, an Irma and even a Rebecca (who had the unlikely nickname of Babette and was the mother of ten children).
Sometimes you see a baby with a weird name — or a name that conjures up images of old people – and you wonder “What were they thinking?” Your name is uniquely yours, something that you can keep — or change as you age.
Our biggest name challenge right now, though, is to come with the right name for our new Siamese kitten that will arrive at our abode in about two weeks. He’ll be replacing our beloved Siamese cat Casper, who died last year. But we’ve had other cats named Suki, Tucker, Sylvester (of course, didn’t everyone?), Wendy and Oscar. I suggested to my wife we should sell naming rights, like the sports teams do. Let the bidding begin.