Bad news for Mad Men’s Don & Betty Draper: their names head U.S. endangered list, finds study marking 1940 US Census release April 2

April 2nd 2012

Donald Trump, Betty White still blooming but ‘Donald’, ‘Betty’ are biggest losers in U.S. names league since 1940: study by findmypast.com

Don and Betty return in ‘Mad Men’ March 25 but their names face extinction

Santa Monica, CA; – Once two of America’s most popular names, ‘Betty’ and ‘Donald’ are the baby names that have fallen farthest from favor since the time of the 1940 Census, reveals a new study.

Iconic owners of such names, like Betty White and Donald Trump, are still going strong but their monikers top the endangered list, reveals the study conducted by genealogy website findmypast.com to mark the Government’s release of the 1940 Census records April 2.

The news comes the very week that Don and Betty Draper returned to TV in the hit show, Mad Men (Series 5), starting March 25. It comes the very month that Betty White has been voted America’s favorite Hollywood star.  

Donald was the ninth most popular name for American boys born in 1940 but now ranks just 377th, while Betty was the fifth most popular name for American girls born the same year but no longer even makes the top 1,000!

“Baby names are like period pieces”, says Josh Taylor, a leading genealogist and spokesperson for findmypast.com. “Some recall a particular era, which can make them useful clues for researching family history. Indeed, you can sometimes guess roughly when someone was born simply by their first name. In such cases, names can be to genealogy what carbon-dating is to archaeology.”

Findmypast.com researchers trawled the records of the US Social Security Administration, which has recorded baby names, based on Social Security applications for births, since 1879. 

Over 23,000 American babies born in 1940 were named Donald. Donald Trump was a forties baby (born 1946), who these days styles himself "The Donald.”

The best-known “Donalds’ in American life were born in the decades either side of 1940: Donald Rumsfeld in 1932, Donald Duck in 1934, actor Donald Sutherland in 1935 (albeit in Canada).

Betty’s hailing from the golden age of Betties include movie idol Betty Grable; Betty Crocker, an inventor character of cake-mix fame; and, of course, America’s favorite celebrity Betty White.

Famous Donald’s (And Their Birth Year)
Donald Rumsfeld (1932)
Donald Duck (1934)
Donald Sutherland (1935)
Donald Trump (1946)
Donald “Don” Draper (1926)

Famous Betty’s (And Their Birth Year)
Betty Draper (1932)
Betty Boop (1930)
Betty White (1922)
Betty Friedan (1921)
Betty Crocker (1921)
Betty Grable (1916)

Top U.S. Baby Names in 1940

RankBoysGirls
1 James Mary
2 Robert Barbara
3 John Patricia
4 William Judith
5 Richard Betty
6 Charles Carol
7 David Nancy
8 Thomas Linda
9 Donald Shirley
10 Ronald Sandra

Top U.S. Baby Names in 2010

RankBoysGirls
1 Jacob Isabella
2 Ethan Sophia
3 Michael Emma
4 Jayden Olivia
5 William Ava
6 Alexander Emily
7 Noah Abigail
8 Daniel Madison
9 Aiden Chloe
10 Anthony Mia

Source: Social Security Online

Note: Mary and James topped the U.S. rankings for baby names in 1940. In our time, Jacob and Isabella rank top. Jayden and Aiden both make the top 10 boys’ names, while Madison, Chloe and Mia are all in the girls’ top 10. 

Biggest Losers In U.S. Baby Name Popularity Stakes Since 1940

Table: Most Popular Boys’ Names In 1940, Ranked By Size Of Fall Since

NAMERANK 1940RANK 2010FALL (PLACES)

1. Donald

9 377 368

2. Ronald

10 342 332

3. Richard

5 127 122

4. Charles

6 63 57

5. Thomas

8 62 54

6. Robert

2 54 52

7. John

3 26 23

8. James

1 19 18

9. David

7 15 8

10. William

4 5 1

Source: Social Security Online

Table: Most Popular Girls’ Names In 1940, Ranked By Size Of Fall Since

NAMERANK 1940RANK 2010FALL (PLACES)
1. Betty 5 Not in top 1000* 996+
2. Carol 6 Not in top 1000* 995+
3. Shirley 9 Not in top 1000* 992+
4. Judith 4 879 875
5. Barbara 2 710 708
6. Linda 8 624 616
7. Patricia 3 615 612
8. Nancy 7 521 514
9. Sandra 10 517 511
10. Mary 1 109 108

* Betty was the first name to drop out of the top 1000 and the one to do so from the highest ranking. It last made the top 1000 in 1996; Carol in 2006; Shirley in 2008.
Source: Social Security Online

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

About the name “Betty”
English, Dutch and Hebrew in origin, it means “God’s promise”, “God is my oath” or “My God is a vow”. It is also a diminutive or pet form of Elizabeth.

About the name ‘Donald’.
Gaelic and Scottish in origin, it means “world rule”. It derives from the clan name Domhnall. St Donald (Domhnall) was a Scottish saint who lived in the 700’s. 

About findmypast.com

findmypast.com is a proud participant in the 1940 US Census Community Project and the new US addition to the global network of findmypast family history websites, with over 18 million registered members worldwide and over a billion genealogical records dating back to 1200.

From early April 2012, visitors to findmypast.com will be able to browse 1940 US Census images and find out more about their American family tree.  

A full launch of findmypast.com will happen this summer. This will provide US customers with an extensive set of US records, in addition to a vast overseas collection, including a billion English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Australian and New Zealand records, plus millions of pages from the British Library's newspaper collection.

findmypast.com is owned by brightsolid online publishing.