OK. No peeking at the answers below.
If you were to hazard a guess at the top boy's and girl's names for 2017 in Montana, what ones would you choose?
On Thursday, the Social Security Administration released the top five most popular names for girls and boys in the state. It comes a week after the SSA published the top names in the nation.
The two lists share some names in common, but not in the same order. And, as always, traditional names help populate the list.
In Montana, the top boy’s name was James; the No. 1 girl’s name was Olivia.
Talk about a long shelf life, the name James hearkens all the way back to the Bible, while, according to several name origin sites online (behindthename.com and babycenter.com among them), Olivia first came to life in 1602 in Shakespeare’s comedy “Twelfth Night.”
The top five girls’ names in Montana were Olivia, Emma, Harper, Ava and Charlotte.
For boys, the top five names in Montana were James, William, Liam, Oliver and Wyatt.
Nationwide, Liam and Emma were the names most often chosen by parents in 2017. James was No. 4 on the national list, and Olivia came in second.
According to the SSA, the name Liam first made its way into the top 10 in 2012, rising to the top spot for the first time this year. This is the fourth year in a row Emma has claimed No. 1.
The top five boys' names in the U.S. are Liam, Noah, William, James and Logan. Oliver is No. 9 nationally and Wyatt is 25th.
For girls, nationally, the top five are: Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella and Sophia. Charlotte is No. 7 on the national list and Harper lands at No. 11.
A total of 18,728 baby boys were named Liam in 2017, the SSA said, while the country picked up an additional 18,326 Noahs. Emma was chosen for 19,738 baby girls, while 18,632 girls born in 2017 will answer to the name Olivia.
That's out of an estimated 1.96 million baby boy and 1.87 baby girl applications for Social Security cards. In Montana, the state gained an equal number of Jameses and Olivias, at 59 apiece.
The agency began compiling the baby name list in 1997, said David Baier, SSA public affairs specialist for Montana. The agency gets inquiries from the public about which names rank highest.
“Some people don’t want the most popular name,” he said. “They don’t want their children in a classroom with 20 other Jameses or Olivias, so it can kind of go both ways.”
Interestingly, the name Michael, which has been ranked in the top 10 list nationally since World War II, dropped out of the top 10 this year, winding up at 12th, Baier said.
“Emily fell from the top 10 for the first time since 1990,” he added. “It dropped to 12 — the same as Michael."
The SSA has access to the names because of what’s called enumeration at birth, in which an application for a Social Security card is included as part of the hospital birth registration process. A majority of parents take advantage of that opportunity, Baier said.
“They need the card to get the child onto the parents’ insurance, to file taxes,” he said. “So it is convenient for parents to have it done through the hospitals.”
Accessing Social Security tools
Along with the annual release of the names, the federal agency is using the opportunity to put in a plug for people to consider signing up for what’s called my Social Security. It’s an easier way to access SSA services, “especially in Montana,” Baier said.
The Billings office services the entire eastern side of the state, he said. People sometimes drive two to four hours to be able to meet with a representative. A video service delivery, similar to Skype, is available in offices in Miles City, on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations and on the Hi-Line.
The number people should call to set up a video service delivery appointment is 866-895-1795.
“We still can’t do all the services though,” he said.
Through my Social Security, visitors can check their earnings record to make sure the SSA has their most up-to-date information for them. It can tell them how much their Social Security benefits would be at age 62 and 66 or, if they’re disabled, what their benefits would be.
“Also there are a lot of planning tools to make sure they are prepared for retirement,” he said.
New for Montanans this year, residents of the state can now obtain a replacement Social Security Card online. The service became available in Montana in April, in a gradual roll-out of the service nationally.
In the past, a replacement card required a visit to a Social Security office. Now, it can be accomplished online, as long as the applicant is 18 or older, is a U.S. citizen, has a state ID or driver’s license, a valid domestic mailing address and a my Social Security account.
Just since the new service became available, 722 Montanans have applied online for the cards, Baier said.