Wenokia Cokley has only one birth certificate, but her name appears on more than 10,000 birth certificates in South Carolina.
As Tidelands Health’s birth certificate clerk for more than 15 years, Cokley is responsible for obtaining the names of babies born at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital and Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital, filling out the documentation and filing it with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Division of Vital Records. For the last three years, she’s had part-time help from health and information employee partners Sherry Bostic and Briana Simmons.
Most of the time, parents already have a name picked out, and everything runs smoothly. But sometimes Cokley has waited patiently in the hall while parents made an 11th-hour decision or debated the merits of a certain name.
Only once has she voiced an opinion, and only when she was asked. “The dad wanted the baby to have his mother’s middle name, and the mom wanted to give the baby her mother’s middle name,” Cokley says. “They went back and forth, and then asked me, so I suggested they consider giving the baby both middle names. That’s what they did, and they seemed happy with the decision.”
Every now and then, parents have a change of heart and want to change the name. Cokley obliges them as long as she hasn’t entered the data into the state system. “Once that happens, only an attorney can change it, so I always encourage parents to be certain of their decision before I leave the room,” she says.
As the recorder of names, she keeps abreast of what’s trending in names for boys and girls and other demographic information. Since the first of the year, more girls than boys have been born at both hospitals.
“Most parents want a family name and a name that has meaning,” Cokley says. “They’re also concerned with how it sounds.”
Popular girls’ names include Katelynn, Sarah, Emma, McKenzie and Isabella.
Caiden, Jaiden, Caleb, Jaxson, Joshua and Wyatt top the list of boys’ names.
Sometimes an external event will influence a name decision. In 2016, Matthew emerged as a popular choice after the hurricane that swept through the area in October of that year.
And then there are some unusual names. “The longest name I’ve ever had was 67 letters,” she says. “It was Hawaiian. I can’t repeat the spelling, but I do remember that the name was a sentence and referred to the roaring sea.”
Over the years, names change, but one thing remains constant in the world of babies, Cokley says.
“Babies come when the weather is rainy and the moon is full,” Cokley says. “”That’s when I’ll be going up and down the road to see those new parents.”