Several weeks ago on the BBN Facebook page, I noted how several boys were named Doctor in the 19th century. It turns out that these titular names were a small craze in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Doctor - In the 1851 census 139 males were named Doctor, from under one to 70 years old. Curiously 83% of them lived in Lancashire. Several of the other 23 Doctors lived in neighbouring counties Yorkshire and Cheshire. In the 1911 census 185 Doctors are listed; the majority still living in Lancashire. Overall 246 Doctors are listed in the birth index from 1838 - 1900. The last Doctor found in the birth index was born in 1975.
Admiral - In 1851 29 males, aged from 1-47, are listed on the census. The large majority living in Yorkshire. By 1911 80 males are listed with the name. 76% lived in Yorkshire. Several were given the name Admiral Nelson, clearly in honour of Horatio Nelson. Overall, 108 Admirals are listed in the birth index from 1838 - 1900. The last Admiral found in the birth index was born in 1958. Two boys were born in the late 60s with Admiral as a middle name.
Colonel - In the 1851 census 27 males are named Colonel aged between 2 and 79. Over half lived in Yorkshire, with several others in Lancashire. By 1911 the count had risen to 172. Overall, 135 Colonels are listed in the birth index from 1838 - 1900. The last Colonel found in the birth index was born in 1962.
General - The 1851 census lists 19 males named General from under one to 68 years old. By the 1911 census the count had risen to 76 with 20% living in Lancashire and 17% living in Yorkshire. 75 Generals are listed on the birth index from 1838-1900; the last birth was in 1967.
Major - 223 males, between the ages of 1-20, are listed on the 1851 census. 31% lived in Yorkshire and 19% lived in Lancashire. In all, 972 Majors were listed on the birth index from 1838-1900. The last Major was born in 1968.
Duke - On the 1851 census 158 males are listed with the name Duke. 18% lived in Lancashire and 51% lived in Yorkshire. 191 Dukes were registered overall between 1838 and 1900. Five boys were registered with the name Duke in England and Wales in 2010.
You would perhaps think that such peculiar monikers would have been accompanied by siblings with equally unusual names. However, the opposite tends to be the case. Most Doctors, Admirals and Colonels had siblings named John, William, Mary and Jane. One family in Yorkshire included children named: Esther, Mary, John, Richard, Ruth, Colonel, Admiral and Grace.
The majority of parents that chose these names were working class -- particularly weavers or miners, which were the major forms of employment in the area.