II, III, etc in names not used by the person

+8 votes
I’ve searched G2G for an answer to this question but can’t find one, so....

In the 17th and 18th century, I believe, father and son didn’t use suffixes like “II” or “III”, maybe not even Sr. and Jr., to differentiate between each other (correct me if I’m wrong). Do we use those suffixes if they weren’t used back then. I would think that the dates and bio would give that away for those searching for them. I noticed that this was true in the Farmer family in Virginia. This is my wife’s line, but haven’t entered them in yet, but I will eventually connect with the early ones.
WikiTree profile: Henry Farmer
in Policy and Style by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.8m points)
And, of course, I see that this has been discussed before. Sorry about that guys!

I’ve also noticed this phenomenon on project protected profiles.


4 Answers

+10 votes
This is a super pain for those of us who mix our people up, but I believe that the convention is that you use their name as they used it during their lifetime, and not add II and III on simply because it is easier to remember for us.

One thing you can do is to change the background on their page to be a different color.  I have two with the exact same name very close in generation and that has helped me not be so confused when I am working with them.  You can also pay a bit more attention to dates.  I also confess for my own purposes when naming them in photos I give them nicknames if they do not already have them.  Usually I find if I am paying attention they actually DO have nicknames i.e "James" could be "Jim" or "Jack" and then often they really more commonly would use a middle name so if you know that it helps also.
by Crispin Reedy G2G6 Mach 4 (47.0k points)

Crispin, based on whet I’ve read in the naming conventions policy, I would agree. I also do the same bing you do, find and use nicknames when folks had them. It becomes really difficult when within a few generations of folks who had 10 boys each and kept using the same names over and over again and the grandkids and such were born close to each other’s dates.

My next question would be how to gently raise the issue with profile managers, and if not resolved that way, what to do?

I ran across a man today who was born a Junior and died a Senior. I'm sure that was perfectly correct according to social convention.  I even agree with it, based on detesting the idea of numbering normal American boys like popes.  It does make for confusing genealogy, though.

Herbert, I remember reading a while back that Sr. was absolutely unnecessary if a son was born with the same name and suffixed with Jr. it was the Jr. that made the differentiation. On the other hand, my grandfather always signed his name with Sr. He was very proud of that. His namesake grandson is Pope Ralph III, :-) but we always called him Sid.

My father was a Junior.  My parents very kindly gave me a different middle name so I wouldn't be Herb the Third.
My father had the same name as his father, but neither used Sr or Jr - my grandfather died when my Dad was 11.

Sr/Jr doesn't necessarily mean father/son either. In colonial Virginia, any two men (and sometimes women) in the same area with the same name were labeled Sr/Jr by age -- sometimes the Sr being only a year or two older. When one dies, the other usually dropped the suffix (until another man of the same name in the same area came of age & the need arose again).
I've seen many cases of Jr being a nephew or some other relation.
+7 votes
I would certainly question it if it has been used on any working clas English profiles. Highly unlikely they would have use Sr, Jr or any numbering. They distinguished between them by variants on the first names or descriptive terms.
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (685k points)
My English ancestors were working class and they definitely used Sr and Jr.

I, II, and III are only ever used for royalty, popes, and Americans.
+5 votes
It is tempting to add I, II, III etc to keep different generations straight, but often doesn't help that match because there is frequently an even earlier or later person with that name (after skipping a few generations) that messes up the numbering. In any event, wikitree policy is use the name they used. In colonial America, I've never seen an original document that referred to a person as I, II, or III in their lifetime.

It was, however, VERY common to refer to someone as Jr or Sr. The problem with that is that the Jr and Sr was usually only used during the period of time when both were alive and living in the same area. Before the son reached adulthood, the father would not be referred to as senior, and people generally stopped using the Jr very soon after the father died. Moreover, Jr and Sr are pretty useless if you have 3 generations with the same name in a row (common), which means that the the first 2 were both Sr when they died and the middle one was Jr when he was young and Sr when he was old.

So, all in all, I think best to just focus on their dates and the names of their mothers and spouses to distinguish them.
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (321k points)
+3 votes
A very good question, Pip, and lots of good answers too.

I have seen Sr., sen'r and senior used in the 1600s and 1700s in handwritten wills, and also Jr. jun'r used in the same. I agree with what Herbert and Chase said on this also.

What has been done in genealogy books and articles, is to add the persons birth-death dates in parenthesis after their name in the bio - each time it occurs. This feels awkward, and can be tedious, but I have used it when necessary to prevent confusion. It is the one sure way to know which person is being referenced.

I have also used I, II and III where it has already been assigned, but your question and these answers now make me question if that was a good idea.

I think I will stick with the birth and death dates in the future. I have seen too many genealogical errors due to confusion over identity to take it lightly.

Thank you for a good discussion, Pip.
by April Dauenhauer G2G6 Pilot (127k points)

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