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I’ve been publishing the Birth Announcements category every Friday for almost three years now, and by now I’ve received quite a few questions about them. Here’s the answers to them, plus the answers to questions you haven’t asked, but you might have wondered.

Why do you publish the Birth Announcements?
I read birth notices for my own interest every week, and have done so for several years. Like any collector, I felt like sharing my finds.

What benefits do you imagine other people would receive from reading the Birth Announcements?
Australia doesn’t have much name data past the Top 100, so it’s a way to show the variety of baby names being used by real people, right now. And there’s no data on middle names at all. People might also see names, or name combinations, they admire and consider using themselves. Or they might just be interested generally.

Where do you get the names from?
The bulk of them are from birth notices in newspapers – I read 22 different newspapers for the birth notices, many of them from regional areas. Brooke from Baby Name Pondering contributes names from the Herald Sun, so that’s 23 papers. I also scan hospital announcements – many newspapers publish photographs of babies born in their local hospital that week or month. There’s also baby competitions, such as Bonds Baby Search, stories about new babies in newspapers and magazines, parenting and photography blogs, and even a few babies that readers have seen in real life.

How do you choose the names – do you just pick your favourite names each week?
No, I definitely don’t just pick names that I really like; that would be very boring and repetitive (not to mention a fairly short list). I try to get a good variety of names, and although there’s no set way of choosing names, I generally look out for:

* unusual, rare, and unique names (especially ones that are new to me)
* daring and darling middle names
* popular names matched with eye-catching middles
* names I have featured on the blog (especially the more unusual ones, to show people do use them)
* interesting and appealing twin sets and multiples
* sibsets that seem well-matched, or strangely-matched
* intriguing sibling names (if a name seems ho-hum, check its brother or sister …)
* names from a diversity of cultures (even if that isn’t always obvious from the name)
* unisex names for both genders
* names that aren’t popular, but are on trend
* hip and fashionable names
* names that show up again and again, as a heads-up how well-used they are
* names that are particularly Australian, especially patriotic ones
* names that somehow seem very typical of their time and place
* name combinations that I think will be crowd-pleasers and appeal to other people
* potentially controversial names that I think will get a strong reaction from other people
* and yes – my own personal favourites!

How do you choose the headline names?
I generally look for two names which seem to go together in some way, usually that are in a similar style (like Odette and Raphaelle), or have a connecting theme (like Elvis and Memphis). Names which can easily be matched with a picture are favourites of mine, hence the amount of vocabulary names like Rose, River, Robin, and Rain.

How do you choose the profile pictures?
It’s varied over time. At the moment, I try to find a picture suggested by the headline names in some way, and if that isn’t possible, I might choose one related to the season (like a snowman for winter), or look for ones of children and young people that somehow remind me of the names. For example, last Friday the names were Brinley and Saige, who I could imagine as surfers.

Is it hard to find enough interesting names each week?
No, I usually have too many names, and have to hold some over for the following week. It can be hard to find an equal number of boy and girl names – some weeks it feels as if all the boys have really cool names, and all the girls are named Charlotte Anne and Emily Louise, and then the next week it will be the girls with exciting names, and the boys all called William Thomas and Lachlan James. But I figure that helps give a chance for the more “normal” names to shine.

Any other difficulties?
It can be hard to make sure the names that week aren’t too much alike. Girls names especially seem to be very similar to each other, so that I will have a Mae, a Maeve, a Maya, a Mia, and a Mila all in one week, not to mention six names with Grace as the middle name. In these cases, I will also hold names over for another week.

Are you getting bored with doing this?
Nope.

Shouldn’t you publish all the names you see in a week, instead of filtering them for us?
Hm, interesting suggestion. To me it seems as if 100+ names will just blend in with one another, but my final Birth Announcement for the year will have all the names from  that week, so you can see what it would look like.

Do you publish any of the names so that people can make fun of them?
Definitely not, and I’d be disappointed if people used them as an opportunity to be mean: these aren’t Hollywood celebrities; they’re basically our friends and neighbours. I deliberately don’t tend to choose names that are often targets of name bullying, such as common names with outrageous spellings (apart from anything else, I don’t find them interesting). Having said that, I can never resist a name or name combination which strikes me as comical; I love them.

I don’t remember publishing my child’s name on the Internet – where did you see it?
I don’t make a note of where I see every name, but I will do my best to track it down for you.

You spelled my child’s name incorrectly!
I am but human. Let me know, and I will edit the post.

I don’t want my child’s name published on your blog
Oh dear. Are you sure? It will make me very sad, but I can remove it.

Are you stalking me, or my children?
No, really I’m not. Look at all the newspapers and blogs I have to read – I don’t have time to stalk individual families for their names. I know it looks suspicious that half the kids from your mother’s group were in one set of announcements, or your daughter’s name was in a set of announcements with your kids’s school as the profile picture for it, or your first child’s name was published 18 months ago, and now I just published your second child’s name as well. It’s just that it’s a small world, and you go to a hip mother’s group, and you live in a small town with not many photo opportunities, and you have great taste so both your kids ended up on the blog. I promise these are all by chance, and not by design.

I saw a fantastic name in the Birth Announcements and used it for my baby!
Yay!

What happens if I see a name or a sibset that I think is the bee’s knees?
Leave a comment to that effect (either on the blog itself, Twitter or Facebook), and eventually they will get voted on so we can see which names everyone likes the most.

Aren’t the name polls just a popularity contest?
Like most things in life, yes. I wouldn’t take it too seriously – we’re not voting on the Nobel Prizes here.

Don’t you think there’s too many names to vote on for most of the polls?
Yes. Next year there will be a monthly poll, which hopefully will make them more manageable. In the beginning, I worried not enough people would nominate names, but due to Sarah’s example at For Real Baby Names, I’m now confident enough to nominate names myself if nobody else bothers.

I have developed an addiction to birth notices, and your weekly round up is no longer enough for me – I need more birth announcements!
Completely understandable. Ebony at Babynameobsessed publishes birth notices from Western Australia, then there’s Elea at British Baby Names, who has weekly birth notices from the UK, plus historical birth notices from The Times. Kara at The Art of Naming has birth notices, I think from her local area, and Clare’s Name News provides links to several European blogs that have birth notices from non-English speaking countries. Then of course there’s the motherlode – For Real Baby Names, where Sarah posts names from birth notices several times a week. Plenty of places to get your fix!

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