On-Line Character Naming Tool

Writing Resources2-Blog

Baby Names from the Social Security Administration

While you might not think of the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a writing resource, think different. If your story is grounded in the U.S. or U.S. territories, it’s a great site to help find baby names.  Which means it can help you choose names for characters. Or help you find out if a name you’ve already chosen was popular or not during the era in which your story takes place.

Curious what the top names in the U.S. were in 1880?  John and Mary. Mary had a spectacular run, staying at #1 almost continuously through 1961. She slipped to #2 in 1962, the beginning of her downward slide. By 2017, neither John nor Mary were in the Top Twenty; Liam and Emma took the top spots.

You can look up data by state, although not as far back.  It’s sourced to the same SSA data**, so isn’t dramatically different than the U.S. results, but it does fine-tune things. For instance, while Jennifer was the #1 female name countrywide in 1980, Amanda beat her out for the top spot in Arkansas.

The site lets you search for name popularity using a variety of criteria.

  • Change in popularity from 2016 to 2017
  • Top 5 names: the five most frequent given names for male and female babies born in each year from 1918-2017
  • Decade: popularity by decade from the 1880’s through the 2010’s
  • State
  • U.S. Territories
  • Birth Year: input a year and see the top 20 or the top 1000 for that year, for male or female babies
  • Name: input a name and see how its rank has changed over years

I love finding useful writing and publishing resources.  Rather than just bookmark them, I’m sharing them here. It’ll help me, and hopefully also help others.

Do you have any key “go to” resources that help you with your writing efforts?

  • A favorite book that’s helped you understand story structure concepts.
  • A site that delivers on-point guidance to understand legal, police, financial, or medical systems or the criminal mind.
  • A podcast that delivers excellent writing advice.
  • Something that, for you, is a saving grace for your writing.

Jot them in the Comments.  If I get a good gathering of useful writing resource tools, I’ll compile them and share.

I know there’s a lot of great stuff out there to discover; all signposts are welcome.


** SSA Data Source: "All names are from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States after 1879. Note that many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data. For others who did apply, our records may not show the place of birth, and again their names are not included in our data."


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