From the statistical website FiveThirtyEight.com, an intriguing article suggesting ways for finding ages when all you know is a name in
your family research. Using Social Security data and related actuarial data, fivethirtyeight’s article, How to Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know Is Her Name, solidifies what all genealogists note about the ebb and flow of popular names in family trees.
Picture Mildred, Agnes, Ethel and Blanche. Perhaps you imagine the Golden Girls or your grandmother’s poker game. These are names for women of age, wisdom and distinction. The median living Mildred in the United States is now 78 years old.
Now imagine Madison, Sydney, Alexa and Hailey. They sound like the starting midfield on a fourth-grade girls’ soccer team. And they might as well be: the median American females with these names are between 9 and 12 years old.
According to fivethirtyeight.com, the “method for determining the answer is quite simple.* All you really need is the SSA’s baby name database and its actuarial tables, which estimate how many people born in a given year are still alive.”
Of course, what the statisticians at fivethirtyeight think is simple and what I think is simple are two very different things. But their article on this topic does suggest some illuminating trends for names of children born in the United States between 1900 and 2014.
Anna, as seen the graphic below, has endured as a girl’s name. The name Anna steadily declined in popularity from 1900 to 1950; however, many of those older Annas are no longer with us, and the name has remained at reasonably steady levels of popularity since then. Thus, while a quarter of living Annas are younger than 14, another quarter are older than 62.”
For another post on using Social Security records, click here.