I just stumbled upon your blog and would love some help coming up with names for our third child (a girl!).
Our children's names are Elisabeth (nn Ellie) and Jackson (nn Jack) and our last name sounds like "Tom's". We like names that can be shortened into cute nicknames but will also be strong adult names. We have been somewhat unlucky in choosing names/nicknames that we thought weren't too popular or trendy only to discover that the year we had our children, those names jumped up the rankings; this time around, we're hoping to do a better job! We do like classic names, which I know by definition are more popular, but as long as we're out of the top 10 or 20 list, I think we'd be okay with the choice.
So far, the only two names we can somewhat agree on are:
Catherine Rose (nn. Caty or Catie or Caitie?) This is the name my 4 year old daughter has picked out and stood by for the past 4 months, and actually it is what we almost named her when she was born.
Ainsley Rose (nn? Would Annie work? Other ideas? We don't want Lee...)
Any input or other ideas? (Rose is a family name and will most likely be the middle name.)
There is, as you've found, no good way to prevent a name from getting popular around the time you use it: we all tend to like the same names at the same time. One way to improve your odds is to check out the Social Security Administration trends: type in the name you're considering and look at, say, the last 50 years. A name like Jack didn't get popular in one single leap: it stayed pretty steadily where it was until the early 1990s when it began making a series of small but significant leaps each year.
The name Jackson went up even more dramatically starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, traveling from #521 in 1986 to #241 in 1991 to #136 in 1996 to #72 in 2000.
The nickname Ellie only hit the Top 1000 in 1992, but then went rapidly up in popularity (click to see the picture bigger):
(Picture screen-shotted from the Social Security Administration.)
Look at that fast mover!
So anyway, all that is to say that if you want to avoid the name everyone thinks is unusual but then it turns out to be pretty common, look for the rapid (or even steady) risers. Any name that hangs around looking bored for a few decades and then goes whooshing upward should be avoided.
The name Catherine looks pretty safe, losing popularity steadily year by year. The nickname is another story, and harder to figure out. The spellings Cate and Catie and Caitie aren't in the Top 1000, but Kate is rising. Also, there are many, many, many Caitlyns, Katelyns, Kaitlyns, etc. already using that set of nicknames, so it's a little tricky to tell how many you'll have in your area.
Ainsley doesn't have much data, but it hit the Top 1000 for the first time at #481 (in 2001), and that's a big jump. It's pretty much stayed in the 400s since then, but I've been hearing it disproportionately often on people's name lists so I wouldn't be surprised if it was poised for another big leap.
Okay! On to the suggestions:
Anna Rose Toms, nickname Annie
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Anne; Ellie, Jack, and Annie
Joanna Rose Toms, nickname Jo
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Joanna; Ellie, Jack, and Jo
Mary Rose Toms, nickname Molly
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Mary; Ellie, Jack, and Molly
Margaret Rose Toms, nickname Meg (the nickname Greta is rising)
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Margaret; Ellie, Jack, and Meg
Sarah Rose Toms, nickname Sally (the nickname Sadie is rising)
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Sarah; Ellie, Jack, and Sally
Susanna Rose Toms, nickname Sukie
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Susanna; Ellie, Jack, and Sukie
Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]
Poll results (202 votes total):
Catherine (Catie): 63 votes, roughly 31%
Ainsley (Annie?): 21 votes, roughly 10%
Anna (Annie): 26 votes, roughly 13%
Joanna (Jo): 5 votes, roughly 2%
Mary (Molly): 16 votes, roughly 8%
Margaret (Meg): 38 votes, roughly 19%
Sarah (Sally): 11 votes, roughly 5%
Susanna (Sukie): 22 votes, roughly 11%
Name update 10-19-2009! Susan writes:
A huge thank you to you and your readers for all of the naming advice! Catherine Rose was finally born on Oct. 14th and our older daughter is thrilled that we used the name she picked! We, too, love that there is a "story" behind her name.