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The NSFX field, aka the Name Suffix field, is listed in the GEDCOM 5.5 standard as:

NAME_PIECE_SUFFIX: = {Size=1:30}
[ <NAME_PIECE> | <NAME_PIECE_SUFFIX>, <NAME_PIECE> ]
Non-indexing name piece that appears after the given name and surname parts. 
  Different name suffix parts are separated by a comma.
For example :
Lt. Cmndr. Joseph /Allen/ jr.
In this example jr. is considered as the name suffix portion.

Dealing with the people who lived in a single city in Germany between 1600 and the 1850's, there is huge redundancy in names within the same surname. This image is just one of the very many I could take for just one surname:

enter image description here

But it occurs to me that just about every entry for these people is far more readable in the record, because they were using the employment as identifier. So you don't have confusion between ten different "Johann Christoph Heß", but rather, you know it was specifically "Johann Christoph Heß, juo. Bürger u. Taglöhner".

Example:
"Jo. Martin Burkhardt, Tagl(öhner)" (in English, "Johann Martin Burkhardt the day laborer") enter image description here

"Junior" and "Senior" can vary, in the case of Germany, as they indicated relative age, rather than the suffix as we'd interpret/use it today. However, the employment generally did not change, and was used as a naming identifier in a way that feels similar to how we would use a suffix today. "Johannes Ackermann, Ackermann" vs "Johannes Ackermann, Töpfer" as compared with "Fred Jones, Jr" and "Fred Jones, Sr".

I've not seen this considered nor done anywhere, but does anyone know if there's been any discussion or decision with the standard with regard to this? (I would ignore non-GEDCOM standards, such as Gramps XML, InterGED, or GEDCOM-X, as those all either have died out or aren't interoperable).

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  • The occupation/status of a person given in a record can change quite a lot over time (or omitted in some instances), so which one would you put in? Also, the occupation is not part of the name as we understand this, even when people were probably adressed using various ways back then. I would think re-purposing the field for this would introduce weird inconsistencies and misinterpretations.
    – jadepx
    Sep 29 at 17:30
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    I could start by saying that a name and an occupation are completely different things so that putting the occupation into the name suffix is totally against the standard. The counter to that is - are you going to exchange any of your data electronically? If not, then the standard is irrelevant. If you are going to exchange it, then you are running definite risks. Those names are often displayed without any intermediate comma so it will not be clear whether (in English) "John Smith Baker" works as a baker, or whether his family name is Baker. So - exchange or not?
    – AdrianB38
    Sep 29 at 21:48
  • @AdrianB38 The only places that generally shed the distinction in the 'part of name' fields when processing a GEDCOM is Ancestry/etc - the online geneaology sites. RootsMagic, FTM, etc all properly handle suffixes as distinct from surnames or first names. That said, yes, I do aim for interoperable data, hence why I'm interested in whether there's been consideration of this type of quite common case.
    – BrianFreud
    Sep 30 at 1:40
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    So far the comments have addressed male names and occupations. Your practise would have to encompass women -- many duplicate names too. Their "occupations" in the registers were essentially just wife/widow or daughter. You might use the feminine form of the husband's occupation but that might be misleading. Generally genealogists distinguish same-name individuals by their dates or lineage. Or use ID numbers.
    – bgwiehle
    Sep 30 at 9:49
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    Fair enough. One workaround would be to prefix such 'suffixes' with 'the'. So "John Smith the Baker". That would be an English equivalent in meaning to the comma in the original German documents.
    – BrianFreud
    Sep 30 at 16:17
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NSFX in GEDCOM is one of the name pieces, specifically the suffix piece. GEDCOM gives "jr." as an example, but it could also include anything else that might be legally after the person's surname and a part of their name, e.g. "III", "Esq", etc.

It is used along with the other name pieces, specifically NPFX (prefix), GIVN (given), NICK (nickname), SPFX (surname prefix) and SURN (surname).

Personal name pieces are not a required part of a Personal Name Structure. Not all program write the personal name pieces to GEDCOM and not all programs read the personal name pieces from GEDCOM. When they are there, they are used simply to identify the parts of the name out of the NAME_PERSONAL field.

As such, the person's occupation should not be part of the a NAME_PERSONAL field and thus should not be listed as an SPSX value.

With regards to your specific problem, you want to be able to differentiate people who have the same name. In your case, you suggest occupation as a differentiator.

There is no problem for any program or GEDCOM itself to keep the people separate. Each person has a different INDI identifier. It's just when the people are displayed by the program that you cannot tell them apart.

You should definitely not put the occupation into the name, as having it there would cause your program and online trees to think that it is part of the name. So you will need another option to differentiate the same-named people.

You should check to see if the program you are using allows additional data to be displayed along with a person's name. Here's a few ideas:

  • Some programs optionally allow you to include the INDI identifier, e.g. Johann Georg (I438) which will make each name visually unique. However the number won't mean anything to you and you still won't know which Johann Georg that is.

  • Some programs optionally will include birth and death dates after the name, e.g. Johann Georg (1833-1892). That option might be meaningful to you and may work.

  • Some programs allow you to create your own USER_REFERENCE_NUMBER (which may be a number or text) for each person with a USER_REFERENCE_TYPE to describe it. If so, you may be able to set up the USER_REFERENCE_TYPE as "Occupation" and enter the occupation as the USER_REFERENCE_NUMBER. Hopefully as well, your program will be able to display this field following your person's name. This is valid GEDCOM using the GEDCOM tag REFN and subtag TYPE. A well-written program should be able to read and write this information from and to GEDCOM.

There is no perfect solution that will work in all programs. But if being able to quickly differentiate same-named people in your reports is important to you, you'll have to search for a program that will do it best for you. I might then suggest that you look into some programs that are designed for One-Name studies, since those studies often have to deal with many same-named individuals, such as Name&Place or Custodian.

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  • Many thanks. My thought was that, at least in the case of pre-1850's Germany, the occupation essentially was part of the name, extending down to how the name was consistantly written, and thus it wouldn't be adding something that wasn't there, but rather (and helpfully for our purposes) maintaining something which already was.
    – BrianFreud
    Oct 1 at 0:45

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