My Great Grandmother Lottie Ardella

Lottie is more than just another in vogue, vintage, nickname-name to me. People with Bertha’s and Hilda’s on their family trees may envy me for having the wholesome Lottie on mine.

Lottie Ardella doesn’t sound perfect but sounds like a name that was picked with care. A quick google search reveals there were actually a couple of Lottie Ardella’s born over a century ago. At one time Lottie Ardella could have been one of those automatic pairings like Carole Anne or Olivia Rose. But to the modern ear Lottie Ardella sounds fresh.

Lottie Ardella sounds like the next Hollywood Baby; the offspring of some hip actor couple looking to put their spin on the homespun granny trend. But that’s not who Lottie Ardella was. That’s not who Lottie Ardella is to me.

She was a young woman growing up in rural Pennsylvania Dutch country at the turn of the 20th century. She was most likely from a farming community. She was my Great Grandmother.

I find my Great Grandmother’s name cute but never used it. First of all, I recognize the current fashion appeal of the -ie ending, old-fashioned, nickname-name revival, and even like the idea of these names. But for my daughter these names seem too casual for my tastes.

Using a more formal variation of Lottie didn’t seem right. I wanted something more original than Charlotte. I do really like the Dutch/German Lotte and actually prefer it over Lottie. But my Great Grandmother’s name wasn’t Charlotte or Lotte.

There was another reason, besides style preference, that I didn’t use Lottie. I never passed on Lottie’s name because I never knew her. No one in the family knew her. Her life was cut short in the most horrific way imaginable back in 1913 – childbirth. Possibly on her first wedding anniversary.* She died giving birth to her only child, my Grandfather.

If there is any consolation to this tragic story, is that Lottie’s only child had a long life, a loving wife and three daughters.

My Grandfather died at 92 in 2006. From a single son Lottie had three grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and eight great-great grandchildren. My children are the youngest of the double-great grandchildren. The oldest of that generation has just reached their 20’s. Within the next few years Lottie could very well have more double-greats and the first triple-greats.

Lottie’s life may have been short, but my Mother, my children and I wouldn’t be here without her, and her willingness to endure what must have been a terrible labor. My kids carry her mysterious genetic code. Nevertheless, I didn’t want my daughter’s name to have such a sad story attached to it.

Last week I visited my surviving Grandmother, Lottie’s Daughter-in-Law, in Pennsylvania. At 94 my Grandmother is moving into an assisted living facility, and my family was cleaning out her apartment, trying to get rid of some things my Grandmother can’t take with her.

My Aunt tried to get me to take some things, but space is a premium, and Rob and I tried to be selective. When I was offered the featured photo of my Great Grandmother, I just had to have it for reasons I can’t completely explain.

Maybe I had to have the photograph because we have something in common. I too had a very difficult first-time labor and birth experience, culminating in an emergency c-section after over 24 hours of labor. I try not to entertain the possible outcome had I been born a century earlier without the benefit of modern medicine.

The date of the photo is unknown. What’s certain is that the photo was taken at a time when photography was very primitive. Rob and I asked if the image was a photograph or a charcoal drawing because some of the detail is lost around the hands and looks smeared like charcoal. The answer was, “No. It’s a photograph.” Shutter speeds on cameras were just very slow.

Through some quick research I learned she was born in 1891.* Lottie was the 93rd most popular name that decade, more popular than Charlotte, then the 101st most popular name.

One hundred and twenty years later, Charlotte is clearly the more popular name, ranking at #27 in 2011. Lottie doesn’t even chart, and has been outside the top 1000 since 1959. In 2011 there were 6,365 newborn girls named Charlotte compared to 38 named Lottie. Of course a few of these Charlotte’s could be known as Lottie.

The Social Security Administration counted 5,499 Lottie’s born in the 1890s. However, not everyone born before 1937 applied for a Social Security Card, and not all births before 1937 were counted.

Having died long before Social Security existed, my Great Grandmother is among the uncounted.  Today she’s been counted.

Readers: Do you have any interesting Great Grandma names on your family tree? If you have a story about your Great Grandmother’s or Great Grandfather’s name that you would like to share, contact us (contact at upswingbabynames dot com) and your submission might be a featured guest post on Upswing Baby Names.

*I found some information on a sub-domain of, RootsWeb. The information includes a disclaimer that errors may exist. 


  1. Lottie Ardella is a lovely name. Genealogy is one of my big time hobbies, and one of the best parts for me is seeing all of the names. Then there are the stories. Some of them can be so tragic and heartbreaking, like the story of your great-grandmother Lottie, but for me there is always this small sense of pride too in knowing what my ancestors faced and overcame or sacrificed. I often visit the cemeteries where my ancestors are buried (my family’s been in the same part of the same state for 150+ years). I look at my ancestor’s headstone; there’s their name, their date of birth, date of death, maybe a small epitaph or inscription. Then there’s that little dash or space between the lines that separates date of birth from date of death. Every time I see a little dash or space between the lines, I wish I could have just one hour to talk to that ancestor and learn the story of the dash or space between the lines. Because our lives here are about so much more than a name and two dates.

    What are you looking for in the great-grandparent name stories? I might have some things I can share.

    • Awesome! Basically anything you know about your great-grandparent and their names would be great. If you happen to know how popular the name was today compared to when your great-grandparent was living, that would be great info to include. Stories about great-grandparents you knew or who died before you were born are equally compelling. There’s like a 20 year age difference between my two sets of grandparents, meaning my paternal grandparents are relatively young and I knew most of my great-grandparents on that side. I plan to post about one of their names as well. Include a little bit of info about yourself at the end, and linking is OK when appropriate.

      I love how you said every time you see the dash or space between the date of birth and date of death you wish you could have an hour to talk to your ancestor and learn the story of the dash or space. I could quote that.

      • FYI – I would use an image relating to the name unless you were able to submit an image of your own.

        • In what format should I send it? Right now the email has a brief note to you and then the story. Would you like me to attach a photo now or send a photo when and if you choose to feature the story in a post?

  2. Lottie Ardella is lovely and quite contemporary-sounding, but can understand your reluctance to use such a sad story.

    My GGs are Mary Catherine, Isabella, Christina and Sarah Jane; my family tree tends to run to the practical I’m afraid.

    The only one I know of well is Mary, who my mother lived with and was cared for by for several years in her childhood. GG Mary was a real bush pioneer, and a very tough lady. My mum absolutely adored her, she was like a second mother to her.

    • Your GGs sound like the GG on my Dad’s side: Catherine Jane and Mary (forgot the middle name). Those names won’t be part of the GG series. You know I can’t remember my other GG on my Mom’s side. I’ll have to look it up. I knew both GGs on my Dad’s side, but didn’t know the GG on my Mom’s side. In fact I’m not sure my Mom even knew them, her parents were 37 and 41 or 42 when she was born. Her sisters were 18 and 12. My Mom was a bit unexpected.

  3. My own Grandmother has researched own family tree extensively, so I can go back a few generations with names in my grandmother’s line, so the only GG name I know for sure is her mother: Edna. I don’t know a lot about her since she died when I was still a baby. Matter of fact, she died about a week after the elder of my two sisters was born, prompting the nickname baby Edna. Truth be told, I’m a fan of the name Edna, but alas most aren’t.

    As for Lottie – love! Always have, but I’m not so fond of Charlotte.

    • I’m not sure how I feel about Edna but I definitely feel its day will come again. I prefer Lottie over Charlotte too. I pronounce the German/Dutch Lotte the same way I pronounce Lottie, but I always preferred the look of Lotte. Lottie is probably more intuitive to pronounce, however.


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