Great-grandmother Names: Ocie


Brittany’s great-grandmother Ocie is on the bottom right-hand side of the photo. She has two children on her lap.

I was thrilled that Brittany shared her great-grandmother’s unusual name.

Here is how Brittany remembers her great-grandmother Ocie:

My great-grandmother’s name was Ocie (OH-see). I never knew her, but she was an amazingly strong woman born in 1905 from an illegitimate union between a Scots-Irish settler and a Cherokee woman, and raised by her biological father and stepmother.

She went on to have 12 children of her own, 11 girls and finally one little boy. So much of my idea of my great-grandmother has been formed by one single black-and-white photo of her sitting on a rugged front porch in a simple apron peeling potatoes, her high cheekbones accentuated by the light on her face as she focuses on the potato in her lap.

One of the most intriguing things about this ancestor is her name. It’s not short for anything, and I’ve never heard it anywhere else. Ocie=strong, wild, but also sweet and nurturing.

Always excited to discover a new-to-me name, I did some research.

From what I learned, many name sites consider Ocie a boy name, but based on comments from people named Ocie (or have relatives named Ocie) at Baby Names Hub, Ocie is a unisex name.

On Baby Names Hub, of 37 commenters (or commenters’ relatives) named Ocie, 17 were female. Of the remaining commenters, there were four (4) who did not identify their gender, one (1) that was a commenter’s dog, and the rest (15) were male.

Of the six (6) user submitted photos on Baby Names Hub, all were male. Five (5) looked like modern photos of black or African men and one (1) was a vintage photo of a caucasian man.

While user-submitted data on Baby Name Hub may not be completely representative of all people named Ocie, this site gave some information about people with the name, which is a small group to begin with.

In the US there were 2,878 people named Ocie as of 2011. The majority (92%) of these people were over 55 and there were almost none (0%) under 12.

In 2012 nine (9) newborn girls and zero (0) newborn boys were named Ocie.

This is one of those names that never became extremely popular but was in the bottom of the US top 1000 from the 1880s – 1930s on both genders.

When the name was in the top 1000, it was always slightly more popular on girls.

Ocie can be found on Nameberry’s post, The Lost Names of 1880.

Information on Ocie’s meaning is hard to come by. Some participants on name forums have speculated that Ocie could be short for other names like Oceanus. One Baby Names Hub commenter was named Ocielia (oh-SEE-lee-yuh), and was named after her grandmother who was named Ocie.

I don’t usually advocate made up names, and I suspect Ocielia might be invented (or extremely rare). Because I like similar names (such as Cecilia and Ophelia), I like the sound of Ocielia and would hate to discourage anyone from using it.

My only hesitation would be that Ocielia might get confused with similar, better known, names—a possible drawback. But the 40-something commenter never mentioned any practical problems and said she loves her name.

Thank you Brittany for sharing your great-grandmother’s fascinating name.

Readers: If you would like to share the story behind your great-grandparent’s name, please feel free to contact us.

Your submission could be featured as guest post on Upswing Baby Names. We are thrilled to receive photos, but please note that we will not publish recent photos of living great-grandparents for privacy reasons. For living great-grandparents we suggest childhood or young adulthood photos. If a photo is not submitted, we will search Flickr for a photo relevant to the name.

Photo credit: Brittany’s personal photo

Great-grandfather Names: Raymond

My great-grandfather with yours truly.

There were a lot of people at my great-grandfather, Raymond’s, funeral. He had a lot of friends. When he was alive, he never had to deal with comments about the 90s sitcom. He passed in 1989 nearly 5 years before Everybody Loves Raymond hit the air. Unlike my Great-grandmother, Lottie who died long before I was born, I knew my great-grandfather Raymond.

But I didn’t really know him. I only got a glimpse into the man he was on his last visit. During this visit, he was very animated talking about riding in the back of some horse-drawn carriage with his brother who fell off and got a nasty gash on his head. Somehow my great-grandfather made that mundane story seem compelling. At that moment, I could see why my Dad was very close to his grandfather. A couple of months after telling that story, he died.

He died in December right after he came inside from one of his favorite activities, chopping firewood. He told my great-grandmother he didn’t feel well and then collapsed. We think he had a heart attack.

My great-grandfather Raymond was boisterous, energetic and a terrific storyteller. He had an appetite. During my great-grandparents’ most memorable visits, my family lived in the Pittsburgh area, and nearly every time they visited my parents would take everyone to Eat-n-Park. Eat-n-Park is a Pittsburgh-originated restaurant chain now with locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia known for their smiley face cookies. Back when my family ate at Eat-n-Park over 20 years ago, they only had locations around Pittsburgh, and were a part of Pittsburgh’s culture. My great-grandfather loved that place. He made several trips to the brunch buffet.

I’ve been told he was also the sportsman who loved hunting and fishing. And he was a talented athlete. As an adult he played on some amateur baseball league. He was a pitcher. I recently learned one of his accomplishments was striking out Nellie Fox, a Major League Baseball player, before he was a Major League Baseball player. Honestly I had never heard of Nellie Fox, but learned he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, and when my Dad told me the story, I could tell he was impressed with this feat.

I’ll post my awkward 80s photo just for a chance to show off my great-grandfather’s sneakers. From left to right: my brothers Alan and Tony, my great-grandfather and me.

One of my great-grandfather’s happy moments was witnessing a family friend, Sid Bream, the son of his good friend, become a major league baseball player. Sid Bream played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 80s when we lived in that area, and going to one of Sid Bream’s professional games was one of the highlights of my great-grandfather’s life.

I’m not sure of his exact birthdate, but I believe he was around 73 when he died, which would make his year of birth 1916, three years before Raymond peaked at #14. The name gently declined after its peak in 1919, but held on to the top 20 through most of the 1930s, and stayed in the top 50 until 1967. In 2011 Raymond ranked at #234. This would make Raymond an underused classic today. Being the name of several Saints gives the name some clout.

Raymond wavers between cool and fusty depending on who you ask. Ray is cool, but the “mond” half is very stuffy. The cool-factor must have outweighed the fusty-factor to Jack Nicholson who gave the name to his son born in 1992.

Its usage is mostly English and French, but Raymond’s origin is German, from the Germanic Raginmund. Since my great-grandfather was of German descent, the name is fitting. The meaning is roughly “wise protector” and I believe my late great-grandmother who rarely left his side and was inconsolable after his death would agree the meaning is fitting too.

My husband Rob considered passing on the initials he shares with his father (Rich/Richard), but we couldn’t find an R name we both liked for our son. After the fact, I realized we could have passed on Raymond, but I just didn’t love the name. All is not lost though. My son’s name, Paul, is a family middle name, and it all started with my great-grandfather, Raymond Paul.

Readers: If you would like to share the story behind your great grandparent’s name, please feel free to contact us. Your submission could be a featured guest post on Upswing Baby Names. You are welcome to include a photo, but please note that we will not publish recent photos of living great grand parents. We are thrilled to receive childhood or young adult photos if they are available. If a photo is not submitted, we will search Flickr for a photo relevant to the name.

Spotlight on Great Grandmother Names: Helen

Reader Emily graciously shared the story of her great-grandmother, and her name Helen. Helen was a name I had planned to spotlight for some time. Therefore Emily’s story about her great-grandmother couldn’t have come at a better time. Helen was one of our astrological names and has origins in Greek mythology.

Helen has a no-frills, no-nonsense sophistication like Claire and Anne. With the exception of Claire, most modern parents fail to appreciate this style. As Emily mentions below, most parents overlook Helen today, yet for nearly 20 years, between 1900 and 1919 Helen held the number two girl name spot. Helen was in the top 10 from 1891 to 1935. That’s impressive.

I am so honored that Emily shared the story about her great-grandmother. She sounds like a lovely woman.

Kelly’s Great Grandmother Helen as a small child.

Emily’s Great Grandmother’s Name: Helen

Ask a parent today if they would name their baby girl Helen, and the likely answer would be no. It’s too frumpy or too old lady. Mom and Dad prefer Ella or Lena. Helen is grandma’s name, and Mom and Dad just can’t see it on their little girl. But when my great-grandmother was born in 1926, Helen was the fourth most popular girl’s name in America. Last year, in 2011, Helen ranked at #427. Helen has long been a name that connotes beauty; Helen of Troy was said to have been so beautiful that she was “the face that launched a thousand ships.” According to Nameberry, Helen is of Greek origin and means “bright, shining one.” What a fitting meaning it is for my great-grandmother.

Helen was the second of eleven children born to two young farmers shortly before the beginning of the Depression. There is no story behind her name; it is just the name her mother chose for her. Helen grew up in rural Alabama, and her childhood was hard and grueling. At just three years old she was helping her mother full-time with household chores, and distinctly remembers crawling through rows of cotton as a small child and picking cotton until her fingers were raw.

My great-grandmother was the only girl in her family for eleven years; she had six brothers before she had a sister. Naturally she was a tomboy and loved to swim and play basketball with her brothers. However, with a misogynistic father, her boyish ways were unacceptable and as punishment he would make her scrub his and her brothers’ overalls on the washboard until her knuckles bled. The only thing Helen was allowed to excel and be good at was school. She was very good at arithmetic and won every school spelling bee she entered. My great-grandmother was a beautiful little girl with a head full of red curls, but to this day she can’t stand to look at pictures of herself as a child because “I never got to wash my hair and Daddy always told me I was ugly.” In addition to the abuse she endured from her father and hard labor she did on the farm, Helen also helped her mother raise ten brothers and sisters.

After WWII, Helen moved away from the family farm to work in the textile mills on the Chattahoochee River. There she met my great-grandfather Daniel, and they were married in 1948. Helen and Daniel raised two children and worked in the mills until they retired. Each morning, Helen woke up before sunrise to make breakfast for the family, which always included her famous buttered biscuits. After Helen came home from the mill there was housework to be done, and most nights my great-grandmother did not get to sleep until late at night. The family was very poor, and the house did not have indoor plumbing until the 1960s. My Grandmother and Great Uncle remember well the tribulations of an outhouse.

In the 1980s great-grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she battled and survived without a single complaint. I have always admired my great-grandmother for being such a strong woman. After all she has been through in her (almost) eighty-six years, she is still quite the character. She has the best sense of humor and loves to talk, laugh, and tell stories. When you visit my great-grandmother, she will always come to the door and welcome you with a hug and a smile. She is always happy to see you and always full of spunk and mischief. That silly, playful tomboy she was as a child is still there. She only occasionally leaves the house since my great-grandfather died in ’08, but there are three places she will always go: church, the beauty salon, and Krystal’s.*

*I asked Emily to elaborate more on Krystal’s since I was not that familiar with the chain having lived in the North East my entire life. Emily added, “They’re famous for their tiny square hamburgers. My great-grandparents worked there when they were in their late teens/very early twenties, and that is where they met. That is why Krystal’s is so significant to my great-grandmother.”

My great-grandmother also loves a good Papa John’s thin crust pepperoni pizza.

Surrounding her arm-chair is a swarm of family photos, all facing toward her chair. If you ask her why the photos are arranged that way, my great-grandmother will tell you it is because she loves us and likes to be reminded of all the blessings God has given her. My great-grandmother has two children, four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and many other relatives and friends. Believe me when I say we all love and treasure her dearly.

Many people never get to know their great-grandparents. I feel so very lucky to have had seventeen years to know what a strong, loving, witty, intelligent, brave, determined, and independent woman my great-grandmother Helen is. Bright and shining she is indeed.

Emily is a high school student and avid name nerd. Her interest in names began when she was a very small child and used her mother’s baby name book to give full names to every doll and stuffed animal she owned. Her other interests include genealogy, art, and writing.

Readers: If you would like to share the story behind your great-grandparent’s name, please feel free to contact us. Your submission could be featured as guest post on Upswing Baby Names. We are thrilled to receive photos, but please note that we will not publish recent photos of living great-grandparents for privacy reasons.  For living great-grandparents we suggest childhood or young adulthood photos. If a photo is not submitted, we will search Flickr for a photo relevant to the name.

Photo credit: Kelly’s personal photo.


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.