NameVoyager - Frequently Asked Questions

Hey...why does this look different now?
June 2006: The NameVoyager now incorporates name popularity figures from 1880-2005. The 19th/20th-century data is shown decade by decade, while the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 are shown individually to give a detailed picture of current trends.

If you haven't been here for a while, the whole Babynamewizard.com site may look different because we've affiliated with the iVillage web network. The site continues to be owned and operated by, and subject to the capricious whim of, Baby Name Wizard author Laura Wattenberg.

Where does this information come from?
The NameVoyager tracks names of babies born in the United States, as reported by the Social Security Administration (SSA). We have cleansed the raw SSA data and performed statistical transformations to allow meaningful historical comparisons.

Why don't I see common names from my country?
The original NameVoyager is a portrait of name use in the United States. I have received many requests for international name information, and I would be happy to create versions of the program for other countries if accurate data can be provided. The NameVoyager requires data on the frequency of use (not popularity rank) of thousands of names over a long period of time. Feel free to contact me if you have access to this information about your country's names!

How did you make this? What graphing software did you use? Where can I get it?
The NameVoyager applet was completely custom developed, and unfortunately no public version of the charting components is available. The project was a collaboration with my husband Martin Wattenberg. You can learn more about Martin's work at bewitched.com.

Why is Jenna above Jennifer? Surely Jennifer is more popular.
The popularity of a name is represented by the thickness of its name "stripe." Mouse over a stripe to highlight it and see its shape clearly.

The position of names on the screen is alphabetical, from top to bottom. So Jenna, which comes before Jennifer in the alphabet, is on top when you type "JENN." This alphabetical positioning helps you see generational trends in sounds, like the cluster of "Kr" names in the '70s-'80s.

What does the curve of the graph of ALL the names mean? Does it show all the babies born?
The NameVoyager charts the top 1000 names for boys and girls, so all the names taken together represent the proportion of babies receiving a top-1000 name.

Girls named George? Boys named Christ? Whoa!
The data, especially from the earliest years of the sample, reflect some artifacts of the data entry process. A century ago, names like George, William and Christopher were routinely written as abbreviations (Geo, Wm, Christ). Coding errors, where the wrong sex was marked on a form, were also more likely to slip through back then. If a name was extremely common, these errors and abbreviations could end up among the 1000 top listings. Eliminating these names would introduce new errors and biases into the data, so they've been included as reported in the original SSA figures. But no, I don't believe there really were hundreds of girls named George.

When I click a name, it fills the screen--even if it's uncommon. How do I know the scale of a graph?
The right-hand axis shows the graph scale, which changes as you zoom in and out. If a name stripe spans 200 to 300 on the axis, that means that out of every million babies born in the U.S., 100 were given that name. You can also mouse over a name stripe to learn the name's popularity rank for any time period.

Why do these graphs look better different from what I've seen on other web sites?
The graphs in the Baby Name Wizard book and web site show the frequency of use of different names. If one name stripe is twice as thick as another on the same screen, that means the name was twice as common.

You may have seen other graphs based on popularity rank. Be wary of any information source which does this--it's a fundamental misuse of data, and the graphs just aren't meaningful. For example, the name Joseph has risen from the 13th most popular name 50 years ago to #10 today...but the name is actually significantly less common today.

I can't see anything!
The NameVoyager is a Java applet, a program written in the secure Java language and formatted to run within a web browser. If you can't see the NameVoyager, your browser may not currently support Java. Check Options/Preferences to make sure that Java is enabled. If you don't have Java installed at all, you can download the free plug-in from Sun Microsystems:
http://www.java.com/en/download/windows_xpi.jsp

It was working before, but now when I type nothing happens.
You probably just moved to another window or program, and the NameVoyager applet doesn't have the "focus" back -- it doesn't realize you want it to be active again. Just click in the applet text area to wake it back up.

When I hit backspace to erase a letter, I get a whole different web page!
You probably just moved to another window or program, then returned to your web browser. That made the web browser window the "active" window, so that the browser responded to your backspace as if it were a browser back button. To make the NameVoyager program itself "active," just click anywhere in the applet before typing.

Launch NameVoyager(requires Java)

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