Austin, Jenna, Ethan? Changing Trends in Amish Baby Names

Amish baby-naming customs draw upon several sources. Many baby names are what you could term “traditional” names (Biblical names and family names). But in certain communities, the choice of baby name can also be affected by modern, non-Amish naming trends. Of course, in some settlements and groups they are going to stick with mostly or exclusively traditional names, but in the more progressive places, you do see names that don’t feel too “Amish”.

Amish family walking with baby
Image: Jim Halverson

Steven Nolt of the Young Center at Elizabethtown College shares a guest post today revealing how Amish baby-naming trends have changed in one region.

He compares the latest most popular Amish baby names in northern Indiana and nearby Amish communities (primarily drawing on the Elkhart-LaGrange settlement), with the most common names in that settlement in the mid-1990s. You’ll notice that much has changed over the course of 25+ years, and the lists don’t have much at all in common – though keeping in mind this is looking at a more progressive area.

From Die Blatt (the biweekly newsletter of the northern Indiana* in the February 3, 2022 issue, the most common Amish baby names in 2021. Overall, in 2021 there were 1070 births (570 boys and 500 girls) including 20 sets of twins and 1 set of triplets in the communities covered by Die Blatt.

*Elkhart-LaGrange and Nappanee Amish communities (plus a few smaller ones such as Kokomo, IN and some in southern Michigan, but statistically, Elkhart-LaGrange and Nappanee dominate by far).

The most common Amish boy names in 2021, as reported in Die Blatt:

  • Isaiah (18)
  • Caleb (17)
  • Jared (14)
  • Austin (14)
  • Micah (13)
  • Ethan (12)
  • Joshua (10)

The most common Amish girl names in 2021, as reported in Die Blatt:

  • Alayna (15)
  • Hannah (11)
  • Jenna (10)
  • Sadie (7)
  • Dena (7)
  • Katie (7)
  • Lindsey (7)

Also, some other, though less common, northern Indiana Amish baby names from 2021:

  • Boys: Cayden/Kaden (7), Jalen/Jaylon (7), and Derek (6)
  • Girls: Savannah (5), Serena (5), Janessa (5), and Caylie/Kailey (5)
Amish mother holding baby
Image: Don Burke

Changes in Amish first names since 1995

By way of contrast, roughly a quarter century ago (1995) the most common Amish names – not just babies but of all Amish people in the Elkhart-LaGrange settlement – were, in order of frequency:

Most common Amish male names (1995)

  • David
  • John
  • Daniel
  • Joseph
  • Samuel
  • Vernon
  • Lavern
  • Stephen
  • Glen/Glenn
  • Jerry (Jeremiah)

Most common Amish female names (1995)

  • Mary
  • Catherine (or variations with a “K” or Katie or Cathy)
  • Susan/Sue
  • Edna
  • Sarah/Sara
  • Wilma
  • Ruth
  • Esther
  • Ida

Source: 1995 Indiana Amish Directory: Elkhart, LaGrange, and Noble Counties.

An Amish father walks with sons
Image: Don Burke

Also, by way of comparison, the most common baby names in the United States as a whole for 2020. The US Social Security Administration releases the most common names for each year, but usually doesn’t do so until half way into the next year, so their most current list is still 2020, not yet 2021.

US most common male names (2020)

  • Liam
  • Noah
  • Oliver
  • Elijah
  • William
  • James
  • Benjamin

US most common female names (2020)

  • Olivia
  • Emma
  • Ava
  • Charlotte
  • Sophia
  • Amelia
  • Isabella

Compared with this US 2020 list, there were 5 Amish Liams born in northern Indiana in 2021 and 5 Noahs, but no Olivers. Among girls, there were 5 Amish Olivias born in 2021 and 5 Emmas, but no Avas.

Steve Nolt (Ph.D., Notre Dame) is professor of history and Anabaptist studies at Elizabethtown College, and interim director and senior scholar at the college’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. He is the author or coauthor of fourteen books on Amish, Mennonite, and Pennsylvania German history and contemporary life, including The Amish: A Concise Introduction and A History of the Amish, now in its third edition.

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    One Comment

    1. J.O.B.

      I do believe this is symbolic of how more Amish are assimilating to the outside world. Slowly moving closer to the English world.

      Not just accepting or considering more technology into their lives. But interacting with the English on a regular daily basis has sped up this assimilation in some groups of Amish.

      One next step might be elimanating the “Amish Taxi.” And simply start driving themselves. Sort of an Amish carpool for the community instead of hiring an outsider. Who knows. But some Amish are slowly changing.