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Names to live longer

Kevin Collier • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:53 AM

According to Ottawa County statistics on the topic, there may be a longevity benefit if you have the right first and last name combination.

The most popular first name in Ottawa County history, including among deceased individuals, is John.

Among females, it is Mary. The two first names rank highest among the top 10.

But if you have either of those first names, you might wish you had another name from the list to live a little longer.

Persons with the first name of John lived on average to the age of 78.7, whereas persons with the first name of Henry, which came in at fourth place, averaged a survival age of 79.9.

If your first name is William, your average age at time of death would be 76.6 years. Two other popular first names that made the list did not fare as well in life span, Robert and James, which averaged both approximately 72 years.

The same holds true for the top first names for women in Ottawa County.

While Mary came in first place in popularity, you’d be better off with other names that made the top 10 — like Margaret (82.4 years), Gertrude (83.3) or Anna (84).

The most popular last name in Ottawa County history, including among deceased individuals, is Smith. Those with the last name of Smith survive on average to the age of 77.

And if your last name is the fourth-place VanDyke (76.9), sixth-place Cook (76.4), seventh-place Miller (75.7) or eighth-place Brown (75.5), you won’t fare as well in longevity. Third-place DeVries had the longest lifespan average of the top 10 last names, at 81 years.

Other most popular last names in the top 10 that fared better than the first-place Smith were Dykstra (80), Timmer (79.2), Mulder (79.1) and Johnson (78.1).

So, if you’re not concerned about being No. 1 in first or last name, the best combination for a long life as a resident of Ottawa County is Henry DeVries for a male (80.45) and Margaret DeVries (81.7) for a female.

But there is no need for concern. Less traditional or “unpopular” names don't guarantee an early demise. A surprising great number of individuals with a wide variety of names have surpassed age 90 and even 100 in Ottawa County history.

When it comes to Ottawa County telephone listings, the last name of Smith alone takes up two pages in directories. However, there are over four pages listing over 300 names that begin with “Van.”

An 1870 census of Ottawa County recording a population of about 26,000 stated that more than 10,000 of our residents come from the Netherlands. According to an article published in a 1894 Grand Haven Tribune, more than 500 persons in the City of Grand Haven alone had a name that began with “Van.”

So, while “Smith” tops the list historically for last names in the area, names beginning with “Van” outnumber all others than made the top 10.

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