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July 29, 2013
Life on Planet Kathy
A Rose by Any Other Name
by Kathryn H. Kidd

The young women of our ward are working on a project this summer. They are involved in the Family Search Indexing program (, and have it as their goal to achieve more than 10,000 indexing points before the end of the summer.

The goal of the project is to convert old copies of paper records into digital form so they can be searched. Anyone can participate by going to the web site, downloading the application, and installing it on their computer.

You also need an ID and password that allows you to access the LDS sites. Once you have done this, you start the application, select a batch of records, and start working. You are shown an image of a record, and then you need to transcribe the names from that record and return the batch. Each batch is indexed by two different people, and then an arbitrator reviews the results and resolves any differences.

The project recently celebrated the goal of having more than a billion different names indexed. Thousands of volunteers are involved in this effort, some of whom are not even Church members.

My husband Fluffy is supporting the project, and has earned 548 index points after working with the software for about a week. Recently he has been indexing passenger lists from ships that sailed to Honolulu in 1925. He has found some interesting things, such as a man from Provo who was probably going to Hawaii to serve as a missionary.

Another thing he noticed was how names have changed over time. He saw many names that are still common today, such as Eve and Sarah. But he also saw other names that are not as common as they used to be. Think of Agnes, Myrtle, Rose, Ima, and Bertha, for example.

I think Ima was probably dropped because of all the bad jokes that were made using the name. If I had a daughter, I would have never named her Ima Kidd! (I couldn’t have used Lisa, either, for pretty much the same reason.) The most famous Ima was Ima Hogg, who was the daughter of a former Texas governor. There was probably never a woman who looked forward to taking her husband’s name more than Ima Hogg did, but alas, she was never married.

My parents chose the name Kathy before the advent of the television show “Father Knows Best,” which is no doubt responsible for most of the names of Kathys who are younger than I am. That show ruined my name forever. When I was growing up, you could yell “Kathy” down any grocery store aisle, and half a dozen little girls would look up and say, “What?” Thanks to the TV show, that name really became a curse to me.

If you plot the popularity of the name Kathy, you will see something like this:

You can see the popularity of my name started in the 1940s, peaked about 1958, and dropped to almost nothing by the 1990s. Thanks to “Father Knows Best,” the world got so sick of “Kathy” that nobody has used it ever since. People who are named Kathryn now go by Katie or Kate or even Kat, but Kathy has gone by the wayside.

You can see the same thing today with names that are used in popular culture. For example, here’s the frequency of the name Bella, which was no doubt made popular by the Twilight series of books and movies:

I suspect when the current crop of Bellas gets old enough to read the Twilight series, they will be as embarrassed about being named Bella as I am about being named Kathy. But that’s the kind of thing parents will do to a kid.

Currently, the ten most popular names for girls are (in order of popularity) Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava, Emily, Abigail, Mia, Madison, and Elizabeth. (Madison, of course, came from the Tom Hanks movie, Splash.) Only time will tell if these names endure or will be other flashes in the pan.

Regardless of the moniker our parents hang on us, it is always comforting to know that God knows us by that name. I was struck by this quote from a conference talk given by Sydney S. Reynolds in October of 2003:

Joseph Smith at age 14 had to be one of the least conspicuous human beings on the earth, and yet the God of heaven knew him and called him by name in the Sacred Grove. I believe the Lord knows my name and your name as well.

It is a sobering thought to know that God knows the names and needs of his billions of children. Whether we’re a Kathy, a Madison, an Ima or a Bella, he is always there to listen to our prayers and wipe away our tears.

I couldn’t get up in the morning if I didn’t know that God was right there, loving me and caring about me and ready to help me in my times of need.

(The graphs and statistics used here were obtained from the excellent knowledge base It contains a wealth of information and statistics. Click on the “Examples” link for examples of all the information you can access.)

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