Mentioning on the blog about 1910 names and the “cross-gender” ones on that list got me thinking about the various “names” that show up on the SSA list that are artifacts due to the SSA’s recordkeeping.
Here’s some I’ve noticed:
Names that are obviously non-unisex showing up on the opposite gender’s list. I think (and I’ve been told somewhere that this is likely true) that this is due to the SSA making mistakes in recording a person’s gender. With the most popular names for each gender at a particular time the errors accumulate enough for the name to sometimes appear in the opposite gender’s top 1,000. Since the SSA is now computerized and has a better recordkeeping system, such errors likely now occur less often (and hence why you don’t see them much on the lists since the late 1980s/early 1990s or so).
Nicknames or other short forms appearing more often in the past than now. I’m not sure if it’s an actual trend or not, but on the lists prior to when SSA numbers were usually obtained at birth or within a few years of that (for tax purposes) nicknames as given names appear to be more common. This could be from people obtaining their SSN with the nickname they had been using rather than the full name given at birth (back when people usually got their SSN when they first started working or when the SSA was first established in the 1930s). This could also explain abbreviated names appearing on the early SSA lists like [name]Geo[/name] (for [name]George[/name]) or [name]Wm[/name] (for [name]William[/name]).
Placeholder names showing up. Entries like “[name]Infant[/name]” or “[name]Baby[/name]” are probably not parents who actually chose those names for their children, but rather put in when a number is needed right away but the parents haven’t decided on a name yet (when one has been decided the name on the SSA card would likely be changed then). Unlike the first two artifacts mentioned, this one is more common on the more recent lists (since this comes about from requiring SSNs for tax or other purposes soon after birth).