Name mystery from Nancy's blog

Alright, Nancy's fantastic name blog sometimes draws attention to naming mysteries and usually she provides immensely satisfying resolutions, but in this particular case, I'm left totally intrigued and wanting to tap into the excellent hive mind we have here. It's been slow, right, and you are looking for a distraction in our post-Deneen era?

The name is Caster (, which shows up with a very high debut in 1953 and then trails off.




Nancy adds:

"Caster doesn’t seem to be a variant of some other name (like Casper, or Lancaster). So I’m assuming this usage corresponds to someone named Caster — either real or fictional — who was in the public eye for several years in a row.

The tricky thing is, of course, that any online search for the name “Caster” turns up all sorts of extraneous stuff — fishing, furniture, music (stratocaster), sports (sportscaster), and so forth.

Still, I was able to track down a few clues.

Records suggest that the majority of these 1950s Casters had middle names that started with D. Here’s a Caster D. born in 1953, and another Caster D. born in 1957.

And every single D-middle I tracked down included the letter L and/or the letter R. Some examples: Dell, Derrell, Derrel, Derriel, Daryl, Deryl, Derald, Derra, Doria, and Doral. A handful of people even had combination names like Casterdale or Casterdell (b. 1953).

Finally, it looks like most of the people named Caster D. were born in the South.

Do you have any idea where the name Caster might have come from?"

The fact that there are combination names with D/l/r middles makes me particularly intrigued. Is it a heard-aloud phenomenon? Are the D/l/r middle names homaging a surname? Does anyone want to showcase their google skills or their excellent pop culture recall? Help a name puzzler out, please!


April 19, 2017 1:15 PM

When I first read this Castor Dell hit some memory trigger, it made me think of old Disney movies searching only turned up a small reference to a fantasia scene with a Centur named Castor and about 15 years too early. A little more searching turned up nothing that seems to fit but a few mentions in the right time frame.

USS Castor that was at Pearl Harbor and also used during Korea

a french rebuilding effort after WWII also called Castors

and Annie Glenn's maiden name was Castor. None of these seem to be the right fit but I'm enjoying the search and look forward to reading what everyone else finds.


April 19, 2017 1:51 PM

I tried typing in only bits & pieces, so see what Google auto-suggested.  Caste Del got me a hit on Castel del Monte in Italy.  Wikipedia says that in the 1950s, a bright red compound in the soil around the castle was found to contain a strain of bacteria which was then used in chemotherapy.  Interesting to my nerd-brain, but I don't imagine people in the southern U.S. were naming their kids because of a chemo drug.

I also got a hit on the Castor Delgado Perez residence in Sao Paolo, which was built in the 1950s.  But again, I don't imagine there was much of a fandom for Brazilian architecture in the U.S. south.  

And there is a town called Castor in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.  Its only claim to fame in the 1950s was a deadly tornado that killed a family of 6.  It was the Sullivan-Smith family, so nothing to explain on the DLR names.  Also seems like a weird/morbid thing to name babies after the actual town.  I'd think in this case, any namesakes would have been given honor names after the people who died.

April 19, 2017 1:55 PM

Oh-and there is a user-submitted name on Behind the Name for Caster.  It says it's a South African variant for the Greek name Castor.  The only hits for South Africa + Caster were for 2016 Olympic runner Caster Semenya.

April 19, 2017 7:30 PM

That's really interesting.

Most of the Casters that I'm finding are African American.

I just sent a message to a Casterdale and a Casterdaral (ETA: and a Casterdaryl and a Casterdarial and a Casterderria and a Casterderal and a Casterdara) on facebook -- I think that a person who is a part of the name trend might be the best way to get that information.

April 20, 2017 4:02 AM

The more people I've turned up on social media with compound names, the more I think that we're looking at a two part homage of Caster and a second part (surname?) that sounds like Derrial (or Darryl), which in some more drawling accents would ellide into Dell or Dale. Messages sent; I'm hoping someone eventually likes checking their other folder for mail from nice-if-nosy name nerds and decides to take pity on them and spill their family name origin story. What's extra wild is that judging by obituaries of these Casterd*r*l names have siblings with completely boring (well, very normal, not-at-all-unexpected) names, sometimes even large sibsets of very boring names.

I think what really interests me is how many of these are First-Middle packages, something which I usually associate with explicit honors ("Horatio Nelson Surname for Horatio Nelson", not "Deneen Ivory Surname for the girl in the dish soap advertisement"). That suggests to me that there's a really good story here, rather than an incidental "I heard this nice name someplace random and it stuck".

April 20, 2017 8:40 AM

I have absolutely nothing to add, but I'm really enjoying this thread.

In the past, I actually considered messaging people with first-last name combos that I was considering for my daughter. In the end, we ended up loving our first-choice name so much that it wasn't necessary, but I'm not ruling it out in the future :)

April 20, 2017 9:59 AM

Lucubratrix, thanks for sharing this name mystery!  I'm thoroughly enjoying this name-sleuthing thread.

I don't have much to add, but I did find a "Caster Dale" that was born in 1935 (before Caster showed up on the SSN list).  His obituary lists a son named "Caster D. Jr" who plausibly could have been born between 1953 and 1956.  

The similarity of Caster Sr's name to all of the 1950s babies could just be a coincidence, or it could suggest the Caster D_r_l combo goes back a few decades, with some spike in prominence in the early 1950s.

April 20, 2017 12:23 PM

I found that guy, too! I tried to find different versions of his obituary that might list more details about why he was famous enough to spawn a series of namesakes, but I could only find that he was buried at Arlington due to military service... and if he had brought notoriety rather than fame to the name, then I wouldn't think that you'd have so many Caster D_r_l individuals. After all, you might use a name that you heard on the news because it sounded great even though it was attached to someone not particularly praiseworthy (see all the murder victim name spikes), but I don't think you'd deliberately use the middle name or make it a compound name.

I'm really curious about why the first part is mostly spelled Caster (not Kaster, not Castor, not Castar)  but the second part is so hypermutable -- though I did find one Castordarryl. People have always been into creative spellings, so it's really more the contrast with the consistency of the first part that seems mysterious. I wonder if the namesake had the first part printed (on a jersey, in an advertisement, in the song name) but the second part was entirely a heard-aloud phenomenon? Perhaps it really is honoring an original Caster D. Surname, who only got referred to as Caster D in writing?

April 20, 2017 2:09 PM

1935 Caster's obituary said he was a Command Sergeant Major in the Army--which is the highest enlisted rank.  His job would have been to represent all of the enlisted soldiers in his command to the commanding officer.  I briefly considered whether "Caster D" could have been a military leader/hero of some sort, and some soldiers coming home from the Korean War in 1953 might have chosen to name their sons after him.  I suppose this is still possible, but the 1935 Caster would only have been 18 in 1953--definitely not a Command Sergeant Major yet and probably not influential enough to inspire a lot of namesakes unless he did something really heroic in Korea that saved a lot of lives.

The middle name is the most interesting part of this mystery, I think.  I also looked for evidence that the original D_r_l was a surname adapted to form a middle name (like all of the Robert Lee Surnames floating around the South), but I haven't found any evidence yet of a Caster with a compelling "D" surname on any of the numerous geneology and gravefinding websites that I've checked.  (I don't have an account with any of these websites, so my search capabilities are limited there.)

If the D_r_l name was originally a surname, then it's also reasonable that there might be a spike in the use of that name as a first name too.  Most of the D* names listed on Nancy's blog are already trending up in 1953 and peak in the sixties.  Dell and possibly Derald show a bump in 1953.

Dell is generally trending up before it spikes up in 1953, staying up until 1960 then declining dramatically in the sixties and seventies .

Dell  1948  59

Dell  1949  61

Dell  1950  62

Dell  1951  46

Dell  1952  67

Dell  1953  84

Dell  1954  69

Dell  1955  70

Dell  1956  77

Dell  1957  84

Dell  1958  74

Dell  1959  77

Dell  1960  80

Dell  1961  66

Dell  1962  64

Dell  1963  62

Dell  1964  59

Dell  1965  52

Derald looks to be generally trending down from a high in 1929 before it spikes a little bit in 1953 and again in 1957 before petering out again:

Derald  1948  32

Derald  1949  30

Derald  1950  30

Derald  1951  29

Derald  1952  21

Derald  1953  44

Derald  1954  32

Derald  1955  26

Derald  1956  31

Derald  1957  46

Derald  1958  33

Derald  1959  39

Derald  1960  26


I'm not sure if either of these names are the key to the original inspiration for Caster. If so, Dell seems like the more likely candidate.  It potentially explains the three or so people named Casterdell that I've found, but not the consistency in spelling for "Caster" and inconsistency in the D middle name.

April 20, 2017 3:13 PM

MarCee, I really appreciate that you're also on board this mystery, and I think you make excellent points all around! Thank you! 

Thanks also for your insight into the workings of the military. I also had contemplated that 1953-1935 = rather young to be a super-prominent namesake, but you're right that it could be possible given military service often makes heroes of such shockingly young men. I do think we should be able to turn up news clippings about whatever Caster D. Sr's military adventures were, though, right? Especially since you appear to have varsity level search skills at your disposal!

I agree that what makes this mystery so compelling is the middle name (or compound name) bundle. (I updated my above post with the many Casterd_l/r names I found on facebook; there were surprisingly many and I'm hopeful that someone might write back!) I'm intrigued by the suggestion that the D_l/r names on the whole also went up during that time prompted by the same person/thing/event. I guess the alternative explanation for the hypermutability is that the names Dale and Dell and Derald were very on-trend... so to homage an original Caster D., perhaps they were creative in filling in the sounds of the moment. 

For example, check out the curve of this plot, especially if you require a,l,e,r endings to filter out the more distinct sounding Derrick, Darius, Dalton, Delbert:,der,dal,del&sw=m&exact=false


April 20, 2017 6:01 PM

If the namesake were only known as Caster D., though, I would expect you to have found Casterdons, -daves, -davids, etc. I think this guy was moderately well known by his whole name.

April 20, 2017 9:09 PM

Fair enough! 

So, sorting through the SS death index for pre-1953 Casters yields Caster D. Giffin (b. 1922), but I cannot turn up anything else about him to suggest why he might have spawned so many namesakes.

April 20, 2017 11:51 PM

He did, however, have grandparents named... Caster (grandpa) and Della (grandma).

April 21, 2017 2:14 AM

Oh, now that's interesting. A cross-gender namesake could explain the variations-on-a-theme middle names. Any chance there was a bump in Della C___ names in 1953? Or perhaps Dolores or Darlene or similar.

April 21, 2017 1:13 PM

Alas, no bump in Della. Darlene had already been rising.

Unfortunately, I'm not finding much of interest about this 1922 Caster D. to suggest he was a namesake, either... but I may not be looking in the right places.

Does anyone have twitter? There's a casterdarl who is fairly active. I feel like facebook hides messages from nonfriends so deep in the site that especially a casual user might not locate them, so switching platforms is appealing. After all, finding testimony from people who had the name is how we finally cracked Deneen...

April 21, 2017 6:10 PM

Yeah, the problem with the death certificates is that our Caster may not have been deceased pre-1953.  It's possible he was still alive (or could even be currently still alive) which is going to slow down our search.

April 21, 2017 7:42 PM

This is a good point, but I am guessing that the namesake impetus for a 1953 spike would ilkely have been an adult at that time, and someone born before the 1930s would have to be blessed with longevity to still be alive today.

April 21, 2017 8:59 PM

I don't know... Pre-1930 doesn't seem so terribly old that it's unreasonable to think that your mystery man is still alive.

Here are some data from the 2010 census to back that up (page 2 in particular): 

April 20, 2017 3:44 PM

Any mention of military awards or honors he might have earned?  That might give us a lead on something major that might have happend to inspire a bunch of namesakes while he was still quite young.

April 20, 2017 9:47 PM

I keep running into dead ends. I haven't been able to find any record of military awards or ribbons for 1935 Caster, although I did find out a few other (unhelpful) things about him--like he went by Dale.  Another Caster I found went by Cass, so apparently the namesake isn't so strong that it has a natural nickname.

April 21, 2017 6:08 PM

I suspect part of the problem is that it's still reasonably likely that a Korean war vet is still alive.  I know my husband encountered that problem when trying to research his father's Korean war service.  Because of privacy issues, the military & sites like avoid making that kind of information public access until the people are deceased.  So unless the family has mentioned it in an obit or something, we may not be able to find out.

It's another thing entirely when trying to look up military service awards or military census data for earlier periods.  

April 22, 2017 12:40 AM

I don't think it's likely to be related to the question, but a search for 1953 combined with Caster eventually turned up a Belgian-French comic book (Tintin: Destination Moon) that was published in 1953 by Editions Casterman.

April 22, 2017 3:20 PM

I love Tintin (currently making a big resurgence in the peer group of my eldest, since it's one of the graphic novels at the school library, leading to the hilarious situation where his very obscure name is not perceived as that weird because there's a minor recurring Tintin character that shares his name)... but I think it's unlikely to be related to this phenomenon.

April 23, 2017 12:33 AM

I finally sorted out the SSDI data. Here are the pre-spike Casters (at the ones who have died, which is a fair point). None of them have Daryl-tyep surnames, but few of them have middle initials, so it's possible that some of them were Caster D_r_l Surnames, besides Mr Giffin (1922).













Also of note is that the Caster D spike in 1953 starts in September.