When did mankind begin using surname suffixes such as Jr. Sr. I II III?

closed as off-topic by Dan Bron, FumbleFingers, Chenmunka, tchrist, Mari-Lou A Mar 8 '15 at 13:21

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  • In the UK Jr. and Sr. are very seldom used and I, II, and III never used (except for Kings and Queens). In the case of hereditary titles we do talk about the the 7th Duke of Marlborough, or the 8th Baron Trumpington. – WS2 Oct 9 '14 at 14:54
  • My impression is that these (at least the numbers) were originally European and not English, so this may be the wrong site for this. – Peter Shor Oct 9 '14 at 17:01
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    "Mankind" doesn't use them. "Mankind" has had hundreds of different cultures, each with their own systems of naming and of noting family relationships. American culture (and probably some others) use those suffixes. – Colin Fine Oct 9 '14 at 22:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not on the topic of English as described in the help center center. – Dan Bron Mar 4 '15 at 14:31
  • @Peter Shor, "European and not English?" – David Garner Mar 4 '15 at 18:46

Epithets such as Major (Elder) and Minor (Younger) were sometimes attached to the names of prominent Romans from the same family, as for example in the case of Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder, 234–149 BC) and his great-grandson Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (Cato the Younger, 95–46 BC), or in the case of Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder, 23–79 AD) and his nephew Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (Pliny the Younger, 61–113 AD). I imagine that many cultures have developed ways to distinguish same-named parents and children, as in the case of Alexandre Dumas, père, and Alexandre Dumas, fils.

In English, the use of Junior to establish such a distinction goes back several hundred years. For example, from "Town Records of Salem Massachusetts, 1634–1659," in Essex Institute Historical Collections, volume 9 (1869):

The 19th day of the 6th month 1639. at a generall towne meetinge.

Graunted to John Winthrop Esqr Junior a little neck of land adioyninge to the salthowse built by the said Mr Winthrop contayninge about 16 acres or thereabouts, more or lesse. lying betweene a coue w[hi]ch is on the north side of his said howse & a little brooke lying to the west of the said howse.

From "Att a Perticular Courte Houlden in Hartford (Connecticut), the 7th Septembr, 1648," in The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut Prior to the Union with New Haven Colony, May 1665 (1850)

The Jury : Mr. Henry Wollcott, Jur: Will: Pantry, Will: Leawis, Will: Gibbens, Rich: Buttler, John Edwards, Sam: Hale, Sam: Smith Junior, Luke Hitchcock, John More, Antho: Hawkins, Aaron Cooke ; Jur.

And in "A Session of the Generall Courte in Hartford, the 6th Octobr, 1651" in the same volume, we have this notice:

William Leawis Junior is confirmed Leiftennant, to order the souldgers at Frmington : John Steele Junior, Ensigne, and Thomas Barnes, Serieant.

And just to allay any suspicion that this naming convention might have been an invention of or exclusive to the American colonies, here is an item from Fast Sermons to Parliament (1642):

Sir Francis Knollys junior (MP, together with father, Sir Francis Knollys the elder, for Reading) was asked by the Commons on 28 September 1642 to desire Temple to preach at the fast of 26 October; ...

  • What an interesting coincidence. Luke Hitchcock of New Haven was my 14th great-grandfather on my father's side, the first of my clan to arrive in America. – Brian Hitchcock Mar 4 '15 at 9:32
  • @BrianHitchcock: Luke Hitchcock appears to have been an upstanding citizen. The records list him as serving on four juries but not as ever having committed an infraction against the colony (s many of his fellow jurors did at one time or another). It's an interesting record to peruse, just to get a sense of where the policing tended to focus. – Sven Yargs Mar 4 '15 at 18:22

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