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How to . . . pick/avoid popular baby names

The Social Security website keeps records of popular baby names by year and is a good source in searching for or steering clear of names in vogue -- or to research your name.

1. Go to ssa.gov/ OACT/baby names. Displayed are the top 10 male and female names for the year 2010. There's nary a Charles (No. 63), Edward (136), Mary (109) or Jane (384), but you will find Isabella (1), Sophia (2), Jacob (1) and Ethan (2).

2. I've often heard my name is

unusual for a woman. Checking Popularity of a Name shows it hasn't been in the top 1,000 female names for a long time. But Popular Names by Birth Year revealed it was marginally popular for a few decades in the 20th century.

3. The name database goes back to 1880. At a click, the site provides lists and/or graphs of the most popular names by decade, state, for twins (both female, both male, and male and female), and Top 5 names over the past 100 years.

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