As in my other questions, I am investigating the spread of the Blackstone family name in early America. I came across the following tidbits and I would like to know if my interpretation is (likely to be) correct.

In the "All Kent County, Delaware Probate Records, 1680-1800" collection on ancestry.com, we have the following items.

  • In 1792, there was a will executed by Eben Blackiston, Sr.
  • In 1794, there was a will executed by Ebenezer Blackiston, Jr. (and Abraham Redgrave).

My question is simple. Is this enough evidence to reasonably conclude that there was a father/son combo of Ebenezer Blackistons living in Kent County, Delaware during the 1790s? This would be an interesting result for me as my current research only has two people by this name in the state at the time, and none of them were part of a Jr./Sr. combination.

If this is not enough evidence, what are some other possibilities I need to consider?

  • A little more background here. I have an ancestor Ebenezer Blackstone, born in 1776, whose parents I am trying to determine. I have found 14 such Ebenezers in public trees in the ancestry.com database. In that set, there are three father/son pairs, but in all three cases the father was dead before 1792. This means that if my supposition is true, there is at least one Ebenezer who existence I have not previously found. This would be interesting for me, to say the least. Jul 20, 2014 at 15:32
  • I thought of that, but here's another bit of evidence. In the will executed by Jr, one of the two known (by me) Ebenezers is mentioned (as the husband of an heir), but not given a Jr or Sr designation. I would assume then that the Ebenezer mentioned in the will is not the Ebenezer who executed the will. And the Ebenezer mentioned in the will would be the Jr of the two Ebenezers I know, anyway, so this still may indicate a heretofore unidentified Ebenezer. Jul 20, 2014 at 15:36
  • Can you link to the records referenced in your question? If you are pulling references out of the calendar, can you quote the specific entries you are looking at, and add them to your question, so that the users outside the US can see what you are looking at?
    – Jan Murphy
    Jul 20, 2014 at 16:08
  • As always, thanks for your informative answer! Sadly, I am now forced to conclude that this is not new information for me. The quest for Ebenezer continues... Jul 20, 2014 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


In the colonial period, language usage for kinship terms (and other terms) was not necessarily the same as it is today. Several of the 'how to' books I've read have said that in the colonial period, 'junior' and 'senior' were not necessarily indicative of father/son, but simply meant 'the younger' or 'the elder' if there were two men with the same name in the same town.

One online article at The Plymouth Colony Pages, "Senior and Junior and Tertius, Oh My!" Unrelated People with the Same Name has a good writeup; at the bottom he says

For a classic dissertation about these terms and others, see George E. McCracken, "Terms of Relationship in Colonial Times" in The American Genealogist, 55 (1979): 52-54.

Also on The Plymouth Colony Pages: "When is an Uncle Not an Uncle?" Slippery Terms of Relationship and Status in Genealogical Records

This is one of the dangers of doing 'push-button genealogy' and cherry-picking records out of their historical context. Researchers who have access to, and who have examined, all the records belonging to a community have a better understanding of the entire group of people, and for researchers who study the history of the entire community over time, the diachronic changes of usage are more evident.

  • So this is not necessarily evidence of a father/son combo, but it is evidence of two guys of the same name in the town, if I am understanding you correctly? Do you believe that the fact that the will executed by Jr. contains a reference to a non Jr. Sr. designated Ebenezer indicates that the two referenced Ebenezers are different people? That, in itself, would be enough for me, in all likelihood. Jul 20, 2014 at 15:50
  • For the sake of example I will use the name John. You could have a will by John Sr. (whether designated or not) executed by John Jr., and it could be that John Sr. is the uncle of John Jr., or they could be entirely unrelated. The usage in that period is different from ours. Substitute "the elder John" and "the younger John" if you want a modern reading.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jul 20, 2014 at 15:57
  • Am I reading your comment correctly? If "John Jr." executes a will that was written by "John" (whether Sr. or not) that would indicate to me that there are at least two men named John in the area, since people don't ordinarily execute their own wills. ;)
    – Jan Murphy
    Jul 20, 2014 at 16:13
  • Ahh... Let me be more clear. ;-) John Jr executes a will in which John is mentioned (not as an heir). The second John has no Jr/Sr designation. Can we infer that there are two Johns from this? In other words, If John were executing a will where he was mentioned, then his name would be consistent over the record? Jul 20, 2014 at 16:16
  • I don't think that's a safe assumption.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jul 20, 2014 at 16:23

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