25 May 2012

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Did you know gender is a fact? It's true. Except for genetic anomalies, every human is born male or female. They will identify themselves as male or female. Their names, however, aren't always so forthcoming. Assuming the sex of a child based on their name can lead to some embarrassing moments. It can lead to errors in your tree! Which means that you need to find supporting documents (Birth records, marriage contracts, military records) that confirm the gender of your ancestors!

Used to be all boys

These names are more often thought of as female names now, but were exclusively male names at some point in time. At any given moment, it could change from a popular feminine name back to the boys. In fact, Ashton started as a boy's name, became a girl's name in the late '80's, and returned to popularity as a boy's name after Ashton Kutcher became famous!
  • Alva, Ariel, Adelaide, Alexis
  • Balie, Beverley, Brett
  • Carol, Casey, Clare, Courtney
  • Dominique
  • Gail
  • Hillary
  • Jesse, Justine
  • Kimberly
  • Laurel, Leigh, Leslie, Lynn
  • Madison, Marion
  • Shelby, Stacey
  • Taylor, Tracy
  • Whitney
Now may be girls

These names may lead you to assume they are boys, but actually could be girls. In fact, if you know a girl named one of these, you may be quick to assume it is a girl based on your own experience! And it isn't impossible that your "tom-boyish" great grandmother had one of these names, she'd just be in the minority.
  • Addison
  • Blake, Blaine
  • Cameron, Conner, Cooper
  • Darcy, Declan, Dorian
  • Elliot, Evan
  • Grady
  • Harley
  • Jordan (while still dominantly male, there were female Jordans in the early 1900's!)
  • Kirby
  • Morgan, Monroe
  • Noah
  • Quinn
  • Rory
  • Tristan
Who Knows?

These names could go either way and there may be no way to know for sure. And time period isn't going to help as they seem to always be interchangeable!
  • Nature- Dale, Glenn, Lake, Reed, Robin, Sage, Skyler, Star, Storm, Warren
  • Places- Asia, Brooklyn, Dallas, Paris, Raleigh
  • Depends on spelling- Braelyn, Devin, Jalen, Frances/Francis (used to be e= girl and i= boy, but it has become interchangeable now)
  • Miscellaneous- Angel, Gray, Innocent, Jazz, Justice, Pleasant, Scout, True
Nicknames that don't help either

Is Joe short for Joseph or Josephina? Is Chris short for Christopher, Christina, or it really just Chris (or Kris)? A "nickname" can actually be a shortened form of their given name, but it could also just be their name with no other clues.
  • Alex, Andy
  • Bennie, Bernie, Billy, Bobby, Britt (Is it Brittany or Britton or Brighton?)
  • Charlie, Chris
  • Dean, Denny (Dennis or Denise?)
  • Eddie (Edward or Edwina?)
  • Gabe, Gene
  • Joe, Jo
  • Kelly
  • Max (Maximilian or Maxine?), Mel (Melvin or Melina?)
  • Nick
  • Ollie (Oliver or Olivia?)
  • Ray (Raymond or Raylene?)
  • Sam, Stevie
  • Toby (Is he Tobias or is she Toby?)
  • Winnie (Winfred or Winifred? Again, all it takes is a vowel to change the sex of this name!)
  • Vinnie (Vincent or Lavinia?)
It's very easy to assume one gender or another on a name and it is going to depend on your experience with that name. I'll admit the first time I heard Valentine, I thought it was a girl's name. My great uncle wasn't amused. And then there are misspellings. My dad tells a great story of the navy: he was ordered to get his routine pap smear. He refused. He was told that he'd be sent to the brig if he didn't keep the appointment. So he went in and told them if they could figure out how to do it, he'd be happy to comply. Seems Louis E. became Louise on an incorrectly typed form! And then there are my cousins Willy and Willie. William married Willie (her full name) and now even cousins call them "Aunt Willie" and "Uncle Willy" to keep confusion down (of course, now younger generations are confused on the relationships to the family).

Of course there are "obvious" gender specific names........... well there used to be. As more people wish to have neutral names or "erase gender inequality", they are naming girls traditionally masculine names. Fewer are naming boys feminine names, but even that is becoming blurry. No longer is it just a song to know a boy named Sue (or rather Sioux). So just like any other fact, find a source that proves it!

Is Johnnie a boy or a girl?


  1. Anonymous25/5/12 11:05

    It's funny that you mention Johnnie... I have one of each side of my family! The genders are appropriate... a boy on my dad's side, a girl on my mom's.

    1. In my family, my brother Johnnie is named after a great uncle Johnnie. But for years everyone thought he was a girl because of the "ie" ending. Same with my uncle Bobbie, tho he started signing his name Bobby in his adult years. For all three, they are not nicknames, they are their given names.