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Mary and John - the most popular names of all time

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The top baby names of 2018 have been published on SmartStart, but where do Charlotte and Oliver rank on the list of most popular names "of all time"?

Every birth in New Zealand must be registered by law. Birth records date back to the 1840s, when birth and death data officially began to be collected.

Looking back through these records, the most popular names for Kiwis are Mary and John. Since 1848, over 54,000 babies have been registered with the first name Mary, and over 108,000 have been called John.

Margaret, Elizabeth, William and James also made the all-time favourites list, but which of these have survived through to modern times?

Jeff Montgomery, Registrar-General for Births, Deaths and Marriages, says that looking at birth registration records gives good insight into naming trends.

"Earlier this year it was announced on SmartStart that Charlotte, Isla, Emily and Ava were among Kiwis’ most loved girls’ names in 2018. But none of these names also appear in the top ten most popular from all records," he says.

"However, Charlotte and Emily do rank quite highly overall. Charlotte, number one in 2018, comes in at number 31 overall. Emily, ranking 8th most popular in 2018, is ranked 17th most popular overall."

Records show that Kiwis’ most preferred boys names have remained largely unchanged. William was 7th most popular in 2018 and is ranked second overall. James also made the 2018 top ten and is considered 3rd most popular overall. Almost 80,000 babies have been named William and almost 70,000 have been named James since 1848.

More modern names like Mason, Noah and Oliver, placed at numbers 172, 151 and 90 respectively in the all-time lists, seem to be on the rise as they were all named top ten Kiwi favourites in 2018.

Much like the names we choose, the ways in which New Zealanders can register their babies have changed as well. Traditionally, one parent needed to visit a local office and fill in a paper form. This is still the case in most countries, including the UK and most of Australia, however 97% of babies in New Zealand are now registered online.

"It’s now easy to register your baby online through SmartStart, an online portal that provides step-by-step support for new parents," says Mr Montgomery.

"Information can be accessed quickly and easily, from choosing a midwife, to organising parental leave, immunisation and a child’s IRD number."

More information on SmartStart, including the top baby names data, can be found at

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