My name is T. Wetmore IV. My father, grandfather and great grandfather had the names you might expect, and specifically my grandfather was named T. Wetmore Jr. I found an inscription in a book given to my grandfather that read, "To my grand nephew Thomas Trask Wetmore, third, from Aunt Myra Jane Denby, Montclair, N J, November 30th 1899." I found this early in my genealogical "career" and it confused me greatly. I knew the book was a gift to my grandfather, but who was Aunt Myra and why did she call him the "third"? I eventually figured it out -- when my grandfather was given the book, he had a living great uncle also named T. Wetmore, so he was the youngest of three living T. Wetmores. Myra was a half sister of this great uncle. When his great uncle died my grandfather "shifted" from being the third to being "junior." By the rules that seemed to have applied at the time, I should now be T. Wetmore Sr. and my son T. Wetmore Jr., yet we call him T. Wetmore V.
It seems that in the past there were different rules for suffixes like Jr., Sr., III, IV. When someone died the younger ones got "promoted" one level higher in list. This doesn't happen any more.
Does anyone know when or why the "rule" changed? Or was there never a rule and different families just used different practices? Kings and Popes have always kept their "numbers," but apparantly we common folk haven't always until recently.
Note especially that in the case described here the three T. Wetmores were not even in a direct line; they were simply three living and related men with the same name.