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

Spotlight on: Casimir


Kazimierz Pulaski

Casimir seems ideal for a celebrity baby, perhaps the son of an experimental musician like Beck whose real son is named Cosimo.

Like Cosimo, Casimir is quirky, yet smart. Casimir has Slavic origins and roots in Poland, where Casimir is the name of four kings and a saint. The name derives from the polish Kazimierz. Common meanings attributed by baby name books and websites are “proclaimer of peace” or “announcing peace” or “the one who reveals or establishes peace”.

But the complete meaning may be less altruistic. The “kazic” element means “to destroy”. Most modern name sources like to focus on the “mir” element which means “peace”. This is why I don’t like to get too hung up on name meanings. They tend to get distorted over centuries, and I would hate to dismiss a great name due to a questionable meaning.

The pronunciation is KAZ-i-meer.

The name is almost obscure in the U.S. today. Last year, there were 23 newborn boys named Casimir in the U.S. The name peaked in the U.S. in pre-World War II days. Casimir appeared in the U.S. top 1000 from 1895 to 1938. But it never became extremely popular. Its highest rank ever was #393 in 1917.

In real numbers, a #393 ranking in 1917 represented 0.0214% of births or 205 newborn boys. The current day equivalent (a name given to about 0.0214% of boys in 2012) would rank in the bottom 500s which would represent about 430 newborn boys.

I suspect Casimir’s peak in the U.S. from 1917-19 correlates with the peak in polish immigrants to the U.S., which was around the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I cannot prove this link since the exact immigration numbers for Polish Americans are unknown.

One early Polish settler to the U.S. was Kazimierz Pułaski, who was a military commander in the Revolutionary War and was considered a national hero. Kazimierz is a form of Casimir and he was also known as Casimir Pulaski.

Last year, popular name blog Appellation Mountain featured Casimir. Appellation Mountain creator, Abby Sandel, gives a great synopsis of the name’s history. What I found fascinating from the Appellation Mountain post was the fact that Casimir had been somewhat popular in France, where it peaked in the 1930s. And then in the 1970s, the name became synonymous with an orange dinosaur from a popular kids’ TV show, which probably led to its demise in France.

Casimir might appeal to parents who like the exotic Leopold, a name that shares the three-syllable, stress on the first syllable rhythm and history among European royalty and saints.

But while Leopold is grounded by the mainstream “Leo”, Casimir sounds like nothing that’s trendy today. This might make Casimir too bold for even those parents daring enough to consider Leopold.

The feminine form, Casimira, may be the more promising name among modern parents. Just like Leopold is grounded with stylish “Leo”, Casimira is grounded with stylish “Mira” which could be becoming more mainstream. Mira has risen steadily on girls in the last couple of years, reaching #665 in 2012.

Perhaps Leopold and Casimira, called Leo and Mira would make a great brother-sister set.

But for those who want something dynamic, dashing, and artsy with cultural substance, I wholly endorse Casimir. For those who like nicknames, Mir (pronounced Meer) is really slick and focuses on the “peace” part of the name’s meaning.

Readers: Which name do you prefer? Casimir or Casimira?

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Could Anne Be A Name To Watch?

Anne-of-Green-Gables“Really, Anne? Are you serious?” you might be thinking.

For years Anne was dismissed as nothing more than a boring middle name. Now that one syllable names are becoming stylish, this seemingly classic choice could experience a revival.

Passed over in recent years for its frillier counterpart, Anna, the sparse Anne had languished. Until recently that is.

Anne came up twice in our series exploring whether Pottery Barn predicts the next popular baby names.

While the results of our research suggest that Pottery Barn more likely follows the trends then sets them, there were a few names to watch that appeared in the Pottery Barn catalogs.

One of those names was Blythe and another one was Anne.

Now is a good time to admit I was inconsistent in my judgement in the Pottery Barn Series. In part 3 which focused on 2012, I categorized Anne as “up-and-coming,” (meaning it was ahead of trends) and in part 4 (2013), I categorized Anne as “down-market” (meaning it was past-peak).

The inconsistency resulted from an inner conflict between what my gut told me and what the numbers told me. When I examined the 2012 catalog my gut said Anne had reached bottom and was destined to turned around.

A couple of days later when I examined the 2013 catalog, I was in a “by the numbers” frame of mind, and would only classify a name as “up-and-coming” if I saw a steep incline on the trend graph indicating the name was rising sharply.

Beyond the numbers, my instincts tell me that Anne is about to turn around for a couple of reasons.

While Anna has gently declined the past decade from its most recent* peak at #19 in 2001 to #35 in 2012, Annie and Anne have slowly climbed the chart.

  • Annie climbed to #377 in 2012 from its most recent low of #420 in 2007 (it has never left the top 450).
  • Anne climbed to #561 from its lowest rank ever at #606 in 2010.

*Anna’s highest rank ever was #2 from 1880 – 1899.

Anna is still a lot more popular than both of its sisters, but as the naming landscape changes, Anna will naturally retreat from the top ranks. Fashion-forward parents who like the idea of Anna could rediscover less frilly alternatives. The prime alternatives are Annie and Anne.

I predict the swinging popularity of Anne vs. Anna to mimic the swinging popularity of Alice vs. Allison.

For years Alice was the favorite and then parents got tired of Alice. It was seen as too “old-fashioned”. Allison became the fresh! modern! exciting! alternative and began to surpass Alice.

Then suddenly, while Allison was still respected as a new classic, Allison started to go through a natural decline and many parents rediscovered the vintage Alice, which is once again on the upswing.

This analogy is not perfect because, while Alice was once more popular than Allison, Anna has been consistently more popular than Anne. But I use the Alice vs. Allison comparison to show how a small change can make a big impact and that the mainstream preference can switch on a dime. I can see this on-the-dime switch happening with Anne and Anna.

Perhaps spawned by the growing nickname-as-given-name trend Annie is more popular than Anne at the moment, but for parents who like Annie but want a formal version, Anne is the natural choice.

And for those who worry that Annie may seem too childish and unprofessional as a child reaches adulthood, Anne is undeniably professional, perhaps one of the most professional names around.

I also foresee a growing trend with “smoosh” names that could propel Anne to a higher rank.

Anne works well in many smoosh names such as Anne-Marie, Lee-Anne, and Lou-Anne. Some parents may like the idea of Anne-Marie or Anne-Sophie, and end up omitting the hyphen while keeping the space between the two names on the Social Security card application and birth certificate.

Lastly, Anne has classic children’s literature credibility. The single syllable and appearance in Pottery Barn catalogs isn’t the only things Anne has in common with Blythe. Both are character names in Anne of Green Gables.

There seems to be an interest in names from literature, even among parents who aren’t that literary. To Kill a Mockingbird has been credited for the rise of Atticus (a character name) and Harper (the author’s name). The Madeline and Eloise book series have also been credited with popularizing those names.

What’s amazing about Anne is that it feels like a former top 10 name but it never made the top 10. Most likely this is due to the combined popularity of the two common spellings: Anne and Ann.

Anne peaked in 1915 at #52 and Ann peaked in 1936 at #28.

Anne is one of those names that, until recently, I dismissed as boring. Lately I find myself appreciating Anne more and more, and I suspect more people will soon share my sentiments.

Readers: Which name is your favorite?

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Name To Watch: Blythe

Blythe-original-croppedSometimes a name starts appearing in pop culture and I feel it is going places despite low birth numbers. Such is the case with Blythe. Not only do I feel Blythe is a solid up-and-coming name, I feel Blythe is a modern classic in the making.

This may seem like a hefty hypothesis, which I will attempt to support here, but of course I can never really prove since predictions are always a crapshoot. But I’m going to attempt to support this prediction and then wait and see…

Blythe’s Appearances

First let’s start with some qualitative data. Blythe has appeared in a few places both outside and inside the baby name blogosphere.

I’m going to start outside the world of name blogs, because I feel this is where the name gets its long-term potential, especially since one association is familiar to the next generation of baby namers.

The children’s show Littlest Pet Shop may suggest the name could appear on future grandchildren. Blythe Baxter is the name of the main character, a little girl who lives in an apartment above a pet shop. Blythe is the only one who can understand what the pets are saying.

Another lesser known association related to The Littlest Pet Shop are Blythe dolls. These are dolls from Japan with over-sized heads and eyes that change color with a pull of a string. Blythe dolls were created in 1972 and only sold in the U.S. for a year by a company that was later purchased by Hasbro.

In 2004 Hasbro introduced Blythe dolls as part of The Littlest Pet Shop toy line, which inspired the name of the main character in the animated TV series.

But I also feel Blythe is appealing to current baby namers. There are a couple of other strong associations. One is Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, Blythe Danner and another is Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables.

Perhaps Blythe is a future “generational crossover” name that could be fashionable for at least two generations. Some examples are:

  • Deborah which seems imaginable on both Baby Boomers (ages 45-65) and Gen Xers (ages 30-45) and
  • Allison, imaginable on Gen Xers, Millennials (age 18-30) and present day children (under 18).

Perhaps this is some gutsy forecasting for a name that isn’t even in the top 1000, has never been in the top 1000, and was only given to 162 newborn girls last year.

But I have heard the name everywhere–so much so that I feel we are going to hear Blythe on baby name lists long before contemporary kids start having babies.

The name is already getting attention in the baby name blog world.

Blythe gets an impressive 4500+ keyword search results on popular baby name site Nameberry (at time of writing). In fact it’s getting close to 5000 search results. (These search results bring up how many times a name has been mentioned on Nameberry’s forums, members’ name lists, and blog, and are constantly changing as Nameberry bloggers and readers add more submissions.)

The name also appeared on Swistle Baby Names a few months ago–twice. Once when she mentioned it is as a name to consider and again when the blogger’s mom had asked about Blythe’s pronunciation. Apparently there are questions as to whether the TH is unvoiced like Ruth or voiced like Heather. With a one syllable name like Blythe, I find the difference between the voiced/unvoiced TH very subtle, and if the name continues to become more popular, I don’t think it will be much of an issue.

Blythe By The Numbers

Let’s look at a quantifiable measure, the name’s birth numbers for the past decade. FYI – Swistle took a sample of birth numbers from every 10 years going back to 1880, and I’m taking a sample from every year since 2002 to be consistent with the protocol I initiated with another recent name to watch, Clover. *Note these are real numbers of baby girls named Blythe each year, not Blythe’s rank.

Year # Newborn Girls
2002 74
2003 72
2004 75
2005 79
2006 65
2007 64
2008 77
2009 87
2010 85
2011 105
2012 162


The above table shows that the birth numbers for Blythe were at a plateau for most of the 2000s and even dipped slightly in 2006-7. The real jump happened just within the past couple of years.

If you check out Swistle’s table you will note a gradual increase in Blythe’s born since the early 20th century.

Prior to the 1920s-30s, Blythe did not have enough birth numbers each year to appear in the Social Security data, meaning there were fewer than 5 Blythes born each year.

The steadily rising birth numbers suggest the 2010 decade may be the decade for Blythe. Blythe very well may hit the top 1000 in the late 2010s. And I feel once Blythe hits the top 1000, it will stay there for decades due to the many strong associations–both old and new.

Blythe is going on the UBN Watch List report for next year. This report lists names that I’m watching, and is updated with each Watch List name’s birth numbers every year once the Social Security Administration releases the newest top 1000 baby names. New names are added to the report every year. The report just keeps getting better every year. 🙂

To receive this report, and other UBN updates, submit your email address below. *Blythe isn’t in the current Watch List report, which you will receive immediately once your subscription is confirmed, but it will be in the next report, which you will automatically receive once it comes out next year (unless you choose to unsubscribe before then).

And I’m curious if you agree with me that Blythe is a future hit name. Share your thoughts in the poll and comments.

Readers: Do you feel Blythe has potential to become a top baby name?

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Name to Watch: Clover

CloverClover has popped up everywhere–on baby name lists. This rare girl name doesn’t seem like it will be rare for long.

After seeing Clover in a few places, one of them being Waltzing More Than Matilda’s post on Australian Olympians, and noting 2500+ keyword search results on Nameberry for “Clover” (at time of writing), I decided to add it to UBN’s annual Watch List Report.

There were 140 newborn girls named Clover last year. This puts the name about three to five years from possibly reaching the top 1000 list. For girls, names usually reach the top 1000 once they have hit over 250 births (that number is lower for boys at between 196-197).

No one can be sure if Clover’s numbers will keep growing, but if they grow at the present rate, there’s a good chance we will see it chart sooner than later. Here are Clover’s birth numbers for the past decade:

Year # Newborn Girls
2002 24
2003 12
2004 46
2005 55
2006 66
2007 77
2008 127
2009 131
2010 99
2011 109
2012 140


There were a couple of years where the births dropped a little (2003 & 2010), but the overall trend is upwards. Over the past decade, the name’s usage increased nearly six-fold.

Due to Clover’s many charming qualities, I feel its numbers will continue to grow. Besides complementing high-ranking names like Willow (#171 and steadily climbing), Clover has the added allure of symbolism and folklore.

To “be in clover” means to live a carefree life of prosperity. The shamrock is associated with Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve told my daughter about lucky four-leaf clovers, and now she likes to search for them, just like I did when I was six. (She hasn’t found one yet.)

Potential breakout names like Clover are added to the Watch List Report. Potential breakout names aren’t the only names included in the report. Some Watch List names have already made their mark, and seem to be headed for the mainstream, such as Atticus from last year’s Watch List. Other names are long-shots, names that are rare and not discussed often, but feel very current, such as Ferdinand from last year.

Every year after the U.S. Social Security Administration releases the top 1000 baby names in May, the UBN Watch Report gets updated. The second annual Watch List Report is now available.

To get your free copy, and get updates from UBN, submit your email address below.

*By submitting your email address below you will also automatically get next year’s Watch List Report unless you choose to unsubscribe before then.

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