[APG Public List] Jr and Sr

Karen Wallace Steely karen at thepastmatters.com
Wed Mar 9 12:52:08 MST 2011

I am a little late to the party, but I would like to still weigh in with
another perspective on the whole Jr / Sr discussion.  My understanding of
the social tradition is that it worked like this:

Elijah Green has a son named Elijah Green.  As long as the father is alive,
the son is known as Elijah Green, Jr. and the father continues to be known
as plain Elijah Green.
When the father dies, his widow becomes Mrs. Elijah Green, Sr., and his son
drops the Jr. and becomes plain Elijah Green. This is because socially,
given that a man was assumed to already be known by his pre-fatherhood name,
there was no need to differentiate him from his son by adding the title of
Senior -- there was only a need to differentiate the son from his father.
So the title of Junior was a temporary one, used only to differentiate son
from father while the father was alive. And the purpose for the suffix of
Senior was actually to differentiate a widow from her daughter-in-law, not
to differentiate a man from his son.  So after his death, Elijah Green's
widow would become Mrs. Elijah Green, Sr., so as to differentiate her from
her daughter-in-law, who has now become plain Mrs. Elijah Green.
Now, if the first Elijah Green lives long enough for his son to make him a
grandfather with a grandson who is also Elijah Green, then this third living
Elijah Green uses the suffix of 3rd (or III, if the family felt their
socioeconomic status entitled them to roman numerals).  In this case, when
the eldest Elijah Green passes on, his son still gets promoted to plain
Elijah Green, and his grandson becomes the new Elijah Green, Jr.  Again, the
purpose being to differentiate living persons of the same name.

I apologize for not being able to look up the page number, but my favorite
description of this tradition is from a book I have found to be a great
source for explaining this sort of social tradition -- "Miss Manners' Guide
to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior," by Judith Martin.

The above tradition notwithstanding, I agree with what others have said on
this point -- I have also seen junior and senior used to differentiate men
on census and tax rolls, and I have seen men who used Senior, and men who
continued to use Junior long after their father had passed.  So as a
genealogist, I find I use the social tradition above not as a rule but as a
broad guideline that may provide a hint about kinship.

Karen Wallace Steely
The Past Matters
11500 NE 76th St Ste A3 #144
Vancouver, WA  98662
(360) 230-2399		fax
(425) 269-3418		mobile
Website:  www.ThePastMatters.com
Email:	  karen at ThePastMatters.com

-----Original Message-----
From: apgpubliclist-bounces+karen=thepastmatters.com at apgen.org
[mailto:apgpubliclist-bounces+karen=thepastmatters.com at apgen.org] On Behalf
Of Kathleen Warr
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 9:21 AM
To: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
Subject: [APG Public List] Jr and Sr

I have a question regarding the abbreviations Jr. and Sr.  I always thought
that if you had a Jr. then the person they were named after automatically
becomes a Sr.  - for example - My father is James Michael Cogbill and my
brother is James Michael Cogbill, Jr. - so doesn't that make my father a
Sr.?  I was told no that it doesn't because on my father's birth certificate
it doesn't say Sr.  Although in my thinking it wouldn't because you haven't
had a kid yet to be named after you.

Can someone please explain the rules of Jr. and Sr. to me?

Thanks so much!

Kathleen Cogbill Warr

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