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Should I record Jr (Junior) and Sr (Senior) in family trees? What are the standards of practice in keeping that information?

Background: I have a lot of family names where father and son are named the same. They are often referred to as Jr and Sr in written history. But in documents such as US Census, State Census, and War records, the Jr/Sr is omitted.

I found How to Use Jr, Sr, II, III, etc. (with Cartoons) at The German-American Genealogist Blog which says that the name can be used. But the website is not clear whether it should be when not recorded in official documents. It just covers convention if someone does decide to use Jr/Sr or Roman number numbering system.

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The usual standard is to record the name as on the birth certificate. Any embellishments like Sr/Jr would be recorded as a "Known As" data point rather than as part of the person's name.

So, it depends on whether you have any information as to how the people were usually known.

Some families will actively use the Sr/Jr epithet to refer to their family members. Some individuals use the terms widely to refer to themselves as part of their name.

Others don't. There may be nicknames - for example, in my tree I have a number of John Smiths (yes, really!), who were referred to as John, Jack, Jonny, etc. Those nicknames are recorded in family documents, never using a Sr/Jr term.

So, if you know how the individuals were addressed by their families and themselves then use that.

If not, I would recommend not recording Sr/Jr. Although of course you could put it in notes.

It is unusual for official documents to use such terms. If it isn't on the birth certificate, it can't generally be used on, for example, a marriage certificate.

  • Thank you for your feed back. To build on my first question. Take the following example: I am looking at a person from 1700's and records all show just the name of the person "John Smith". There is one book written about the family that refers to the same person as "John Smith Jr." Which should I use? There are no family members to confirm which is right. I think using the most common usage from documents of the name would be ideal (not using the Jr. abbreviation.) – Whitecat Jan 17 '17 at 17:21
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You say "in family trees", but I'm wondering if you mean generally in genealogical software products -- this would include those more devoted to family history than just trees. In both scenarios, it probably depends on which actual tree or product since there are no standards here.

A person very likely had more than one preferred name (e.g. formal versus informal names, or a stage name), and these may have changed over time (e.g. due to marriage).

By contrast, the way a person was referred to in a given source may fit none of these, and may have been the result of misheard details, misspelled names, transcription errors, etc. These are a separate set from the (known) preferred names, and it is important to indicate why you believe it's the same person when a given instance differs in some way.

Yet another type of name is the one used to identify the person in your product. This would be more of a label, and might be used to distinguish people with the same name in the same generation/family, or to identify children who died with no name, or even to label unknown people that have merely been mentioned in a source (e.g. "John's daughter").

These distinctions were described in an article at One Name to Rule Them All, but I emphasise that the bigger issue is the software or Web site you happen to be using.

  • Can you simplify this answer, by splitting the paragraph to something more easy to digest? I think what you are saying is, "Use all names as that can help find more names in the future" – Whitecat Jan 17 '17 at 18:26
  • No, I'm saying that there are distinct classes of "name" that should (if possible) be kept separate from each other. I'll have a go with the edit. Let me know if it's still a bit heavy-going. – ACProctor Jan 17 '17 at 19:37
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    Great! I understand it better. Your answer is software should support multiple name distinctions better, which makes a lot of sense – Whitecat Jan 19 '17 at 2:50

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