I’d better declare at the start that this list of first names is confined purely to people with my surname – Rimmer – who are mainly based in North West England, but it gives a reasonably representative snapshot of first names throughout England as a whole from the 1840s through to the 1990s.
Be aware, the top 5 male and female names don’t change much for the first 100 years, but it’s interesting to note when certain names first appear – some popular ‘modern’ names were in use further back than you think.
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,065|
|1||John - 93||Mary - 88||The 1840s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Mark (1846) and the girl's name Susan (1844).
The Rimmer clan, being of Lancashire origin, tended to be historically isolated from the central power of the Kingdom and hence not particularly pro-royalist. Perhaps this is why only one girl in this decade is named Victoria (1845) after the new queen.
|2||William - 80||Ann - 56|
|3||Thomas - 76||Elizabeth - 54|
|4||James - 58||Ellen - 49|
|5||Robert - 48||Jane - 45|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,226|
|1||John - 118||Mary - 88||The 1850s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Paul (1859) and the girl's name Laura (1850).
In this decade, only one boy took the name Albert (1852), made popular by Queen Victoria's beloved consort Prince Albert. While boys names tended to be traditional, some mothers liked to experiment with more exotic names for their baby daughters, such as Marina (1854).
|2||Thomas - 97||Elizabeth - 72|
|3||William - 97||Ann - 57|
|4||James - 64||Margaret - 54|
|5||Richard - 45||Alice - 43|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,508|
|1||John - 116||Mary - 120||The 1860s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Stephen (1862) and the girl's name Janet (1868).
The death of Prince Albert in 1861 may have prompted the naming of 6 boys as Albert and 2 girls as Alberta in this decade. One boy in the port of Liverpool was given the nautical sounding name Reef (1862).
|2||Thomas - 99||Elizabeth - 84|
|3||William - 97||Alice - 49|
|4||James - 79||Jane - 48|
|5||Robert - 53||Margaret - 47|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,944|
|1||John - 160||Mary - 151||The 1870s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Anthony (1870) and the girl's name Julia (1872).
The exotic biblical name Kezia was given to one girl in 1872, while the parents who named their boy Jules (1874) were obviously Victorian sci-fi fans.
|2||Thomas - 122||Elizabeth - 88|
|3||William - 119||Margaret - 81|
|4||James - 109||Jane - 59|
|5||Robert - 73||Ellen - 56|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 2,041|
|1||John - 146||Mary - 140||The 1880s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Gordon (1885) and the girl's name Sylvia (1889).
The name Gordon would likely have been after General Gordon, killed in Khartoum in January 1885, reflecting some parents' interest in world affairs at the time. Another boy was named Victor Emmanuel (1880), after the first king of unified Italy, and a girl was named Wilhelmina, after the recently deceased German emperor Wilhlem I.
|2||William - 140||Elizabeth - 86|
|3||Thomas - 108||Margaret - 84|
|4||James - 90||Alice - 57|
|5||Richard - 55||Ellen - 53|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 2,054|
|1||John - 144||Mary - 88||The 1890s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Norman (1892) and the girl's name Eileen (1891).
The parents of Roy Aquillia (1890) may have had a scholarly interest in Ancient Rome, just as the parents of Launcelot (1896) were into the legend of King Arthur. The parents of the less fortunate girl Ethel Tynemouth (1895) may have had interests in North East England.
|2||William - 135||Margaret - 75|
|3||Thomas - 83||Elizabeth - 70|
|4||James - 77||Alice - 53|
|5||Robert - 57||Ellen - 47|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 2,244|
|1||John - 138||Mary - 97||The 1900s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Alan (1905), and the girl's name Joan (1909).
This decade also saw the first use of the name Leslie for both boys and girls on 7 occasions. Patriotic fervour during the Boer War was confined to naming just 2 boys Victor in 1901 and 1902.
|2||William - 117||Margaret - 60|
|3||Thomas - 96||Elizabeth - 58|
|4||James - 88||Alice - 53|
|5||Robert - 57||Elsie - 31|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,603|
|1||John - 112||Mary - 50||The 1910s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Trevor (1910) and the girl's name Brenda (1915).
WW1-related patriotism was very muted - the were no children named Victor or Victoria in this decade; just one girl was named Alsace (1915). After the war, a boy in London was bravely named Otto (1919) to a mother whose maiden name was Von Steidelmann.
|2||William - 72||Margaret - 46|
|3||James - 61||Ellen - 23|
|4||Thomas - 60||Elizabeth - 22|
|5||Robert - 29||Edith - 22|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,698|
|1||John - 96||Mary - 64||The 1920s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Brian (1926) and the girl's name Jean (1923), which quickly caught on in popularity.
The 1920s also saw the start of some quite exotic sounding girl's names such as Zona (1920) and Zita (1925).
|2||William - 64||Margaret - 50|
|3||James - 57||Joan - 30|
|4||Thomas - 52||Edna - 25|
|5||Robert - 34||Elizabeth - 24|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,495|
|1||John - 88||Margaret - 60||The 1930s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Barry (1931) and the girl's name Jacqueline (1931).
The popularity of the talking movies across the depressed working class towns of northern England may explain the first real changes to popular girls names in nearly a century, with stars like Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Dorothy Lamour inspiring many mothers.
|2||William - 48||Jean - 33|
|3||James - 34||Joan - 32|
|4||Thomas - 28||Mary - 31|
|5||Peter - 28||Dorothy - 30|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,629|
|1||John - 89||Margaret - 49||The 1940s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Gary (1949) and the girl's name Sandra (1944).
WW2 saw a degree of patriotism in the naming of 3 boys Victor (1941, 44 and 47) and one girl Victoria (1940). Two girls were also named Winifred (1941 and 42), often shortened to Winnie - the nickname given to wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
|2||Peter - 36||Patricia - 43|
|3||Robert - 32||Jean - 30|
|4||William - 30||Joan - 27|
|5||Thomas - 25||Pauline - 23|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,481|
|1||David - 66||Susan - 67||The 1950s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Wayne (1954) and the girl's name Karen (1954).
The boy's name John was knocked off the top spot for the first time in over a century by David, which has remained popular ever since. There is even a UK TV channel called 'Dave', so named in 2007 because "everyone knows a bloke called Dave".
|2||John - 59||Anne - 43|
|3||Steven - 52||Christine - 38|
|4||Paul - 39||Linda - 32|
|5||Peter - 36||Patricia - 21|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,900|
|1||David - 70||Susan - 39||The 1960s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Lee (1967) and the girl's name Lisa (1963).
Almost making the top 5 was the name Andrew, the name given to 47 boys in the 1960s, reflecting the birth of Queen Elizabeth II's second son in 1960. Less traditional boy's names like Dale also appeared thanks to hip young parents.
|2||Steven - 69||Julie - 35|
|3||Paul - 60||Deborah - 31|
|4||Mark - 56||Karen - 30|
|5||John - 53||Angela - 21|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,341|
|1||Paul - 48||Joanne - 23||The 1970s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Ryan (1976) and the girl's name Zoe (1973).
To illustrate how the old names had fallen away in the 70s, the name Lee already replaced John in the top 5 list. There was just one girl named Mary in the whole decade. There was also one girl named Tammy (1975), whose mother must have been a Country & Western fan.
|2||David - 45||Tracey - 21|
|3||Steven - 39||Claire - 18|
|4||Mark - 33||Helen - 17|
|5||Lee - 24||Julie - 17|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,204|
|1||David - 31||Claire - 22||The 1980s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Joshua (1988) and the girl's name Kirsty (1983).
Who loves the music and film culture of the 80s the best? Obviously the parents of the 2 boys named Kyle (1987 and 88), fans of the film 'The Terminator'.
|2||Michael - 35||Rebecca - 20|
|3||Paul - 32||Laura - 20|
|4||Steven - 30||Kelly - 17|
|5||Christopher - 30||Nicola - 14|
|Boys||Girls||Total registered births - 1,578|
|1||Daniel - 34||Rebecca - 27||The 1990s first saw the Rimmers' use of the boy's name Kai (1995) and the girl's name Alisha (1996).
The 90s saw a mix of returning traditional names, such as Alice, along with many new exotic names such as Xenia (1993), or old names with new spellings, such as Aimee (1990) and Krystina (1996). Two girls picked up the name Demi (1996 and 97) on the back of the popular film 'Ghost', and one boy, born a month after the death of Princess Diana in 1997, was named Dodi.
|2||Joshua - 31||Jessica - 25|
|3||James - 30||Amy - 21|
|4||Benjamin - 26||Jade - 18|
|5||Jack - 25||Sophie - 17|