How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (2022)

Ever wondered what qualifies a person to put a “II” or “III” after their name, or what the difference is between a “II” and a “Jr”? Learn how to use generational suffixes, with a little help from cartoons. (Who doesn’t love cartoons?)

Rule #1: Parent & Child with Same Name = Sr. + Jr.

This one is pretty easy. You undoubtedly already know it. Any parent and child with the exact same legal name can be referred to as “(Name), Sr.” and “(Name), Jr.” Below, Barnabas Ludwig Johnson named his son Barnabas Ludwig Johnson also, so they can be called Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, Sr., and Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, Jr.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (1)

Rule #2: In Order to Use Suffixes, Names Must be EXACTLY the Same

This is a rule that is abused a lot. Unless the full name of two related individuals is entirely, exactly the same (first name, any and all middle names or lack thereof, and last name), then they cannot correctly use suffixes. Though the New England blueblood Beavis Winston Purple would like to use suffixes with his and his son’s name, in order to sound more prestigious, he cannot correctly do so, because he gave his son a different middle name than his own middle name.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (2)

Rule #3: For More than Two Same-Named Individuals, Use Roman Numeral Suffixes

What if there are more than two same-named individuals in the Johnson family? Then, they can use Roman numeral (i.e. I, II, III, IV, etc.) suffixes after their name, to designate the order in which they were born.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (3)

Rule #4: “Sr.” and “Jr.” Only Apply to LIVING Parents and Children

If a parent and child are using the suffixes “Sr.” and “Jr.”, but the parent dies, then they are referred to merely as “(Name) I” / “(Name), the first” and “(Name) II” / “(Name), the second”. Should Barnabas Ludwig Johnson Sr. tragically die, his son would now be called Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II, and the deceased father would now be lovingly remembered by the name Barnabas Ludwig Johnson I. Continuing to call the son “Jr.” (unless “Junior” had simply become his nickname), would create confusion, as it would indicate that his father were still alive.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (4)

Rule #5: Roman Numeral Suffixes Are Allowed to Skip Generations

If a person is named after an ancestor such as a grandparent or great grandparent, the Roman numeral suffixes still apply. The elder can be called “(Name) I” and the younger can be called “(Name) II”.

Let us imagine that a century ago, there was a man named Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, who had a son named Barnabas Astredo Johnson. They would not be “Sr.” and “Jr.”, or “I” and “II”. But if Barnbas Astredo Johnson were to name his son Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, after the child’s grandfather, then Barnabas Astredo Johnson’s son would be Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II, and the original Barnabas would become Barnabas Ludwig Johnson I. And, of course, if Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II has a son of the same name, that son could be called Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (5)

Rule #6: “Sr.”/”Jr.” and Roman Numeral Suffixes Can be Used Together

Someone can use both the “Sr.” or “Jr.” suffix and/or a Roman numeral suffix if they so wish. If our Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II below and his son, Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III, are both still alive, then the former can be called “II” and/or “Sr.”, while the latter can be called “III” and/or “Jr.”

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (6)

Rule #7: REMINDER: Once Dead, “Sr.” and “Jr.” Suffixes Cannot be Used

If Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II Sr. dies, then his son, Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III Jr., becomes simply Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III. The son does not stay “Jr.” after the death of the “Sr.” That way, if Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III grows up and wants to give his son the same name, then Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III can now call himself “Sr.”, and his son, Barnabas Ludwig Johnson IV, could use the suffix “Jr.”

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (7)

Rule #8: Same-Named Uncles and Nephews Can Use Roman Numeral Suffixes

If someone is named after their uncle, then the uncle and nephew can use Roman numeral suffixes to indicate their same-namedness and their relatedness. Let us imagine that the old, venerable Barnabas Ludwig Johnson I had two sons: one named Barnabas Astredo Johnson, and one named Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II. If Barnabas Astredo Johnson has a son named Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, then Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II (aka “crazy uncle Barney”) can proudly declare, from the safety of his padded cell, that his nephew is named Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III. If Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III has a same-named son, then crazy great uncle Barney can take comfort in knowing that his legacy will be preserved in a Barnabas Ludwig Johnson IV.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (8)

Rule #9: Even Cousins Can Use Roman Numeral Suffixes; Numerals Go In Order of Birth

If a man has a nephew named after him, then the uncle gets the first number suffix, and the nephew gets the second number suffix. But if the uncle then has a child of his own, also of the same exact name, then his own son takes the third number suffix. Or if the uncle first has a same-named son, then they take the first and second numeral suffixes, and if the uncle afterward has a nephew named after him, then the nephew gets the third number suffix. What matters is birth date.

If, in the Johnson family tree, crazy uncle Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II, has an even crazier son in 1972 and gives him the same name (so that all the relatives know whom to avoid at the family reunions), then the pair become II and III. If crazy uncle Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II’s saner brother, Barnabas Astredo Johnson, later (in the year 1974, for example) has a son named Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, then that one becomes Barnabas Ludwig Johnson IV. Chronology is what matters.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (9)

Rule #10: REMINDER: Chronology Determines Order of Roman Numeral Suffixes

It is possible that a man can have a grandson named after him (thereby becoming I and II), and then that grandfather can still have another son of his own, who would be called III, despite being the uncle of II.

For instance, let us imagine that the original Barnabas Ludwig Johnson gets a grandson named after him in 1974. Grandfather and grandson become Barnabas Ludwig Johnson I and Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II. However, Barnabas Ludwig Johnson I, who has been widowed, gets lonely and decides to remarry to a young and pretty woman, who then bears him one more son in his old age. This son is born in 1975, but also gets named Barnabas Ludwig Johnson. In this case, the person in the first generation is I, the person in the next generation is III, and the person in the next generation is II. Once again, what matters is not the order in which they are situated in the family tree, but rather what order they are born in.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (10)

Rule #11: Same-Named Siblings Can Use Roman Numeral Suffixes

Even same-named siblings can use Roman numeral suffixes to indicate their relation to one another. While it is rare for two siblings to have the exact same name, it might often happen in older days when one child died in infancy, and then the next child to be born was named after their deceased older sibling (this is called a “necronym”).

Let us return to the prestigious Purple family. Beavis Winston Purple might not be able to use a “II” suffix after his son Beavis Wilford Purple’s name… unless Beavis Wilford Purple had an older brother (either alive or deceased) who was also named Beavis Wilford Purple. Then, the older brother would be “I” and the younger brother would be “II”.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (11)

Rule #12: Females Can Use Suffixes, but Typically Don’t

There is no rule saying that females cannot use suffixes like “Sr.”/”Jr.” and/or Roman numerals, but they usually do not do so, because–at least in Western society–females typically change their last name when they marry. Therefore, if a woman imparts her legal name to her daughter, the mother and daughter can be called “Sr.” and “Jr.” if they so wish. Should the daughter marry, and legally change her name however, the mother and daughter would cease to be “Sr.” and “Jr.”, as they no longer have the same exact legal name.

Let us imagine that the wealthy Beavis Winston Purple falls in love with the equally wealthy Angelique Faversham Highsmith. His wife decides to take his surname, and legally becomes Angelique Faversham Purple. Beavis and Angelique have a daughter, whom they also name Angelique Faversham Purple. Mother Angelique can be called “Sr.” and/or “I”, while daughter Angelique can be called “Jr.” and/or “II”. At least, until the daughter becomes a punk rocker and has her name legally changed to just “Purple”.

How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) – Josiah Schmidt, Professional Genealogist (12)

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