If you ask ten people whether Ty is a typically African American first name, you’re likely to get half saying yes and half saying no.
Their answers usually depend on who they know with that name. But that’s hardly scientific.
This article tries to be less subjective. I trawled through recent high school yearbooks to investigate if Ty is currently more common amongst African Americans than Americans of other heritage.
Then I used historic census data to check if Ty was a typical black name in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Is Ty Always Short For Another Name?
You may be thinking that Ty is short for Tyrone or Tyrell. But that’s not always the case.
When I was looking at census records from 1940, I found sixteen black residents named Ty.
I was curious as to why there were three unrelated African Americans whose first name “Ty Cobb” in the census. They were all born between 1916 and 1919.
Here is the birth certificate for one of them.
I’m not a baseball fan. So, I wasn’t aware that Ty Cobb was a famous (white) center fielder in the early twentieth century.
He doesn’t seem to have been a very likeable character. However, he had some strong fans in black households when it came to naming their children!
Is Ty An African American First Name?
You may not know that your high school yearbook could be online.
There are several archives that have gathered many thousands of yearbooks from the 1900s to as recent as 2016. I used Ancestry.com for this research.
I narrowed my search to three southern states with a significant black population and combed through yearbooks from about 2014.
This table is the summary of my review. The column headed “Ty” was the total number of kids named Ty that I found across the schools with uploaded yearbooks.
Ty isn’t a particularly common name in recent years, based on these results.
It’s certainly not an exclusively African American name. However, Ty was more popular as a name with black parents in Mississippi.
Is Ty A Boy Or Girl’s Name For African Americans?
There were more African American girls than boys named Ty in the Mississippi yearbooks online. Specifically, there were six girls and four boys in the years from 2011 to 2016.
The numbers were equal in Georgia in my search of yearbooks in the single year of 2014. Both black students in Louisiana were boys.
In contrast, every non-black student named Ty was male.
In summary, Ty is both a boy and girl’s name for African Americans. But it is almost exclusively male in communities of other heritage.
Explaining the table
Of course, there are more than eight schools in Louisiana (there are 558 to be exact).
But I could only base the survey on schools where the recent yearbooks were online. And there were plenty of schools that didn’t have a student named Ty from 2012-2014.
The second column in the table above shows the number of schools where I found at least one kid with Ty as his first name.
The “Ty” column is the total number of students named Ty that appear in the yearbooks in that state.
The last column shows the percentage that I believed to be African American.
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 one hundred percent right. Consider the numbers to be an estimate.
Choosing good locations for research
There’s another problem with this kind of review.
Let’s say that I counted two African American students named Ty in one school, while twenty non-black students were called Ty.
Does that mean that Ty is unusual in the black community? No, not necessarily. What if the school was predominantly white?
If there were only four black students in the high school, then having two named Ty would suggest the name is actually common amongst African Americans.
In order to avoid that kind of imbalance, I restricted my review of high schools in three states with the highest percentage of black residents:
- Mississippi (37%)
- Georgia (31%)
- Louisiana (31%)
(D.C. has the highest percentage but, of course, has a much smaller population).
Was Ty A Black Name Historically In The U.S.?
To review whether Ty was a popular first name in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I looked at several federal censuses.
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and emancipation. All African Americans were included in this census for the first time.
The census-takers could enter black or mixed for each person’s color.
There were only three black or mixed people named Ty in the 1870 census. That was out of a total of fifty-nine persons. This represents about five percent.
The 1900 and 1940 censuses didn’t have the “mixed” category that was in other censuses. So, I only needed to review the black numbers versus the total population.
About eighteen percent of people named Ty were African American in 1900.
That percentage fell to ten percent in 1940.
I’ll also mention that Ty appeared as part of the first names of several residents in Native American reservations.
My conclusion is that Ty was not a particularly black name in history.
Here are the numbers from these three censuses.
Most Famous African American Named Ty
I figure that Ty Law is the most famous African American who used this first name.
The retired cornerback won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.
However, his full first name is actually Tajuan. Ty is a shortened form of the name. So, maybe I shouldn’t put him in this section.
Similarly, Ty Warren was also with the Patriots. But his full first name is Ty’ron.
How about another Patriot? Ty Montgomery is from Jackson, Mississippi, but he went to high school in Dallas, Texas.
Ty Montgomery is the standout here because his first name is genuinely the two-letter name of Ty.
Other First Names
Although I pointed out that Ty can be a name in its own right, it is often a shortened version of other names.
Check out our article on whether Tyrone is a typically African American name.
Trey is a one-syllable name that is fairly similar to Ty. We also investigate if Trey is a black first name in the United States.