Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 20th column, he looks at the history of the name Garth.
Garth is an English surname derived from Middle English “garth,” itself from Old Norse “garðr,” “enclosure,” indicating one’s ancestor lived by a garden or orchard. Only 402 people with Garth as a last name were listed in the 1940 United States census. However, actress Jennie Garth (Kelly Taylor on “Beverly Hills, 90210”) has made it well-known.
When the custom of turning last names into boys’ given names began around 1800, Garth became a first name. The 1850 census includes three Garths, all in Kentucky, with the oldest, Garth M. Kimbrough, born Jan. 1, 1820.
Garth left the top 1,000 names in 1983. Then in 1989 Garth Brooks became a country singing sensation. His second album, “No Fences” (1990), containing “Friends in Low Places,” the Country Music Award’s Single of the Year, sold 17 million copies. Boys named Garth skyrocketed 360% to rank 658th in 1992. The name then collapsed, leaving the top 1,000 again in 1994.