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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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; ...