I spotted a poster on mums.net, a women’s forum, saying that her African American friend stated that Trey was a black name.
Is that true? To find out, I looked at historic census data and recent high school yearbooks.
So, is Trey an exclusively African American name? Read on…
Is Trey An African American First Name Currently?
Several archives have collected thousands of high school yearbooks from the early 1900s up to 2016.
I used Ancestry.com. My research was focused on three southern states with a significant black population.
I picked periods from 2012 to 2016. The table below is the summary of my review.
The column headed “Trey” was the total number of kids with the name that I found across the schools with uploaded yearbooks.
Based on these yearbooks, Trey isn’t an exclusively African American name in recent years. Indeed, there was only a black majority in Georgia.
Over two-thirds of students named Trey were white in Louisiana and Mississippi. One young man was Hispanic.
My conclusion is that Trey is not a typically African American male name in the 21st century.
What about New Hampshire?
To balance this survey, I also looked at a state with a low black population.
I searched the New Hampshire yearbooks from 2004 to 2016 for anyone named Trey.
There was a total of two boys named Trey. Both were white.
In contrast, there were over one hundred results when I searched for students named John!
Why were there so few schools in this survey?
Of course, there are more than thirteen schools in Louisiana (there are 558 to be exact). But many schools don’t have yearbooks available online.
The second column in the table shows the number of schools that came up in the results when I searched for the name Trey.
It’s also possible that a school has a yearbook online but has nobody by the name of Trey. That means the school doesn’t get counted in this survey.
The challenge of using high school photos
If you’ve looked at historic census records in the U.S., you’ll know that ethnicity is one of the questions that people are asked.
This means that the census archives can be searched by ethnicity as well as specific names. However, I could only search the high school yearbooks by student names and school locations.
So, how did I identify African Americans from people of other heritage?
Well, the recent high school yearbooks have photographs of the students. I did it by eye.
I’m not going to be right with every pick. So, treat these numbers as an estimate.
A Typically White First Name In The 1960s and Early 1970s
A research study used mortgage applications from 2007 to identify the breakdown of first names by ethnicity.
We can guess that most of the applicants were aged from thirty to fifty. So, the numbers represent people born in the 1960s and early 1970s.
There were thirty-three people named Trey who applied for a mortgage. That was actually a small number compared to some other names.
This was the ethnic breakdown for Trey:
- White: 94%
- Black: 3%
- Asian or Pacific Islands: 3%
So, the black percentage was very low.
If you’re curious, the name Tyrone was 60% black in this data.
My conclusion is that Trey was not a typically African American name in the 1960s and 1970s.
Was Trey A Black Name In The 19th And Early 20th Century?
To review whether Trey was a popular first name in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I looked at several federal censuses.
The first survey after the Civil War and the freeing of slaves was taken in 1870. This was the first time that all African Americans were counted in the census.
There was a whopping total of ten people in the 1870 census named Trey. They were all white.
The total number had grown to forty-seven residents in the 1900 census. By this time, ten were black. That puts the black percentage at 21%.
By 1940, the total was over double at 115 residents. The black percentage held at 21 percent with twenty-four residents.
My conclusion is that Trey was not a common black name in the early nineteenth century. Despite being 21% black, the actual number of people with the name was very low.
Most Famous African American With Trey As A First Name
Perhaps Will Smith’s first child, his son Trey, is the most famous African American with this name.
If you’re a basketball fan, you’ll probably think of Trey Burke of the Houston Rockets. But Trey is his nickname. His first names are actually “Afonso Clark”.
What About Other Names?
Ty is similar one-syllable first name. Check out our article on whether Ty is an African American name.