I started a writing project that is set in 1880. I am still working on a lot of details but I’ve got a good idea of my main character, and I am trying to name her and the other important character. The problem? SSA baby name records begin in 1880. When they are already in their 30s or 40s.
If I assume that names generally cycled through every two generations, as they tend to now (people in my age group frequently name children after their grandparents, who tend to be born about 70 years before the baby in question), and if I also assume people had children earlier, then I might look to names being given to children 20-30 years after my story is set. Does that make sense?
Of course, then my preferred name for my heroine is nowhere to be found. Which doesn’t mean I can’t use it, but it bothers me.
The other thing I’d like to find is a breakdown of the immigrant population by nationality, to find names that perhaps were not popular on the SSA list but might have been common in particular areas. (I’ve read a lot of Willa Cather. I want to use names like Alexandra and Antonia. But, like, not those exact names.) Of course, I can’t find that information. I’m pretty sure it exists, but it’s not a quick google search away.
And finally. Let’s say you were naming a not-great husband in a western. You’d name him Frank, wouldn’t you? I thought so. Trying to come up with another one.