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Cleveland Evans: Among Boomers, there are plenty of Andrews

Cleveland Evans: Among Boomers, there are plenty of Andrews

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The Book of MormonEugene O'Neill Theatre

Omaha native Andrew Rannells, in a scene from "The Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City. 

Will you stay up late to see hometown boy Andrew?

Andrew Rannells co-hosts “Oscars: After Dark” on ABC after the Academy Awards tonight. Rannells, who grew up in Omaha’s Hanscom Park neighborhood, was nominated for Tonys for “The Book of Mormon” (2003) and “Falsettos” (2016). He starred in television’s “The New Normal” and “Black Monday”, and the 2020 films “The Boys in the Band” and “The Prom.”

Andrew is the English form of Andreas, a Greek name derived from “andreios” (“manly”). St. Andrew, Simon’s brother, was the first Apostle of Jesus.

It’s possible the saint was born with a Hebrew name, Andrew being his nickname. On the other hand, Alexander the Great’s conquests brought Greek culture to Palestine three centuries before. Israeli historian Tal Ilan’s found 14.5% of Jews in Jesus’ time had Greek names.

St. Andrew was popular throughout medieval Europe. In England, 637 churches were dedicated to him.

Andrew did even better in Scotland. Relics of St. Andrew were brought to Scotland in the eighth century. King Angus II legendarily won a battle against the Angles in 832 after praying to the saint. The town surrounding Scotland’s national cathedral was named St. Andrews, and Andrew became a hugely popular name for Scottish boys.

In 1841, the first British census found 26,087 Andrews in Scotland and 13,528 in England, though Scotland had only a sixth of England’s population.

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), seventh President of the United States, was born to immigrant Scots-Irish parents. Jackson’s 1815 victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans made him a national hero. His 1829-1837 presidency led to thousands of namesakes. In the 1850 census, 90,309 Andrews lived in the United States, while the 1851 British census found 49,699 in Scotland and England combined, when the populations were about the same.

In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly baby name lists started, Andrew ranked 24th. It slowly decreased after that, bottoming out at 86th in 1945.

During the Baby Boom years, Andrew began slowly growing. Its rise continued during Generation X, helped by the birth of Britain’s Prince Andrew in 1960 and the popularity of “The Andy Griffith Show” (1960-1968), even though Griffith was Andy, not Andrew, on his birth certificate.

When Millennial births started in 1981, Andrew ranked 18th. Andrew peaked in 1987 when 1.86% of boys received it, ranking it sixth that year.

When Hurricane Andrew smashed into southern Florida in 1992, the name took a hit, dropping back to 11th in 1995. Andrew had staying power, though, and as top names in general became less common its rank rose again. It was fifth in 2003, though only 1.05% of boys were blessed with it.

As a top name for both Gen Xers and Millennials, newly famous Andrews abound, from former presidential candidate and New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang (born 1975) to Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Andrew Sean Greer (1970) to “Amazing Spider-Man” star Andrew Garfield (1993). One who deserves more fame is Andrew Brooks (1969-2021), a physician who developed a widely used saliva test for COVID-19 before he tragically died of a heart attack in January.

Now a typical “Dad” name, Andrew is quickly receding for the newest generation, ranking only 46th in 2019. It’s surely one name, though, that won’t disappear for centuries to come.

kiley.cruse@owh.com; 402-444-1375

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