How to Use Sequence Post-Nominals: Jr., II, III, Etc.

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How to Use Sequence
Post-Nominal Abbreviations
Jr., II, III, etc.

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 26 February 2018
Click here for a link to other types of post-nominal abbreviations such as honors, awards, or degrees.

Sequence Post-Nominals: Jr., 2nd, Third?

When Should Jr., II, III, IV, and V etc.
Be Used After A Man's Name?

Dear Mr. Hickey:
My son is Walter C. Wentz IV.  His father and grandfather are deceased.  What is the proper designation for him now?  What is the proper sequence post-nominal designation for the son he is expecting next month?

         --- Audrey Parker

Dear Ms. Parker:
    The "Go By" name one uses is up to the person: So Mom, you won't be deciding anything here, you can only advise!
    Continued use of sequence post nominals is often a matter of clarity.
    1) Some men drop the sequence post-nominals ... Jr., II, or III ... when they sign their names when their father dies and they think it unlikely there will be social or professional confusion. Their legal names remains the same unless they have it legally changed.
    2) Some men keep the sequence post-nominals in the "Go-By Names" if their father was well-known ... or if they work in the same law firm ... or same company ... and they think the friends/clients/customers will find the designation useful and interesting.
    3) One might keep
the sequence post-nominals because his mother is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz III and his wife is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz IV and socially that differentiation matters to the family. However since you are using "Audrey Parker" (rather than Mrs. (name)) it won't be confusing.
    One situation is seen with Microsoft's Bill Gates, who is really William H. Gates, Jr., but never used the "Jr."  Now his father, born William H. Gates uses William H. Gates, Sr.  He added the Sr. to clarify that he is not his much more famous son.  He probably did not officially change is name in court ... it's just a informal and unofficial change.
    So, if your son names his son Walter C. Wentz V, he's probably going to keep using Walter C. Wentz IV. If he names his son Zachery ... and there is no need to define father/son, so keeping his IV
becomes less necessary.
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Use I, II, III, IV?
      We're hoping you can answer a question regarding name titles I, II, III and IV.  Is it appropriate for someone to take on a numeric title just because there have been ancestors with the same name.  Does a numeric title need to be direct descent, as it would with Sr. and Jr.?
     It is our understanding that you can't have a III without a I or II, because they would have been Sr. and Jr. prior to the birth of the third party.  Once the III comes along, Sr. and Jr. now become I and II.  Is this correct?

        -- Adrienne in Hawaii

Dear Adrienne:
Here's how these post nominals typically work:
     1) Once you get your name it does not change "legally" unless you go to court and have a judge change it. That doesn't mean some people change their "Go-By Name" name ... an as long as you pay your bills no one really cares!
     2) A son who is given the same name as his father is named at birth (Full name), Jr.   "Jr." implies that the person he is a "junior' of was his father.
     3) A boy who is given the same name as a relative (in memory of or to honor that relative, say, an uncle, grandfather, etc. ) is named at birth (Full name), II. "II" implies that the person he was named for was not his father.
     4) Any boy named after a "Jr." or a "II" is a III. Any boy named after a "III." is a IV. etc.
     5) If the person you were named for dies ... e.g., if you are born a "III". and your father who was a "Jr." dies ... you legally keep being the name you were given at birth.  Many men stop using the Jr. as part of their "Go-By Name" when their father dies  -- my brother did --  but if a father was famous ... a son may keep using it for clarity. E.g., if you work in the same business as your father and everyone knew him, it may be useful to keep using the "Jr." with your name so people who knew your dad will be clear who you are. While some "Juniors" use the "Jr." as part of their "Go-By Name" all the time ... many don't.

      -- Robert Hickey

Is a Second Son Named After a "Sr." Dad – the "III"?
          I have a son named him after his Dad.   The Dad already has an older son and he had named "Jr.".  So we named my son "lll" and the Dad is now "Sr."   Did we do this right?
          --  RR

Dear RR:

          You gave your son a unique name and that's a good thing!
          I understand that heavy-weight boxing champion George Foreman named five his sons:
                    George Foreman Jr.
                    George Foreman, III
                    George Foreman, IV
                    George Foreman, V
                    George Foreman, VI

          But, first it is useful to define two kinds of names
          1) Legal names … official names in which the government is interested.
          2) Go-by Names …. names people use informally in social situations.
          Formally …. legally … unless you go to court to change your husband's name to:
                    James Smith, Sr.
          ... his name remains as it is on his birth certificate, which I guess would be:
                    James  Smith
          Not everyone thinks it is necessary to add “Sr.” to the father's name since each has a different name:
                    FATHER: James Smith
                    SON: James Smith, Jr.

          But some families decide to informally add “Sr.” to father’s names:
                    GO-BY FATHER”S NAME: James Smith, Sr.
                    FORMAL SON'S NAME: James Smith, Jr.   

          To me it's not necessary, but who am I to tell them what to do?
          3) IITraditionally “II” was used when a family names a son for someone who was not the father …. like a grandfather or uncle.  The child would not be a “Jr.” since the person for whom he was named was not his “father” — and “Jr." denotes the "child of".  
                    UNCLE or GRANDFATHER, etc.: Thomas Jones
                    FORMAL CHILD’s NAME: Thomas Jones II

          4) III, IV, V, etc.:  “III” and thereafter are traditionally used for the son's of either “II” or “Jr.”
          That is what is traditional. 

           -- Robert Hickey

Are Jr., II, III, IV treated as Post Nominals?
      Some in our office say that honorifics shouldn’t be used with any post nominal suffixes  -- Mr. James R. Bowden, Jr., for example. Isn't there a rule that if a name has a post nominal it can't have an honorific at the same time.

             -- James Bowden, Georgia

Dear Mr. Bowden:
     Yes ... there is a rule that there is either an honorific (something before) or a post-nominal (something after).
     But .... Sr., Jr, II, III, IV, etc. are part of the person's name, they are not post-nominals abbreviations like honors, degrees and professional affiliations are ... so ...
James R. Bowden, Jr.
 .... is O.K.
       James R. Bowden, Jr.,  .... is O.K.
       Mr. James R. Bowden, Jr., PhD.. is not O.K.
          -- Robert Hickey

How are Sr., Jr., I, II, & III Assigned
If the Name Changes Just a Tiny Bit?

      My husband's father's name is William O'Shea Baxter.  My husband's name William O'Shea Baxter, Jr.   Our son is William O'Shea Baxter, 3rd.  When he had his son he named him William Shea Baxter, leaving off the O' 
    Is this child the 4th?
             -- MAB

Dear MAB,
     The tradition is (and it is tradition that started way before Social Security Numbers!) when a legal name is passed down exactly, adding the sequence post nominals … Jr., 2nd, 3rd, … make who is who clear for everyone — banks, government tax collectors, recorders of deeds, borrowers & debtors.
     If the legal name is changed in any way … then there's no need to use the sequence post nominals.
     But of course there is no Naming Police out there to enforce tradition or review the logic of the way anyone names their children!  So, to go back to the traditional & legal point of view: When legal name changes, the assignment of sequence post nominals starts again.
            -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Wife Whose
Husband Is a
Jr., II, III, IV or V ?

      I am looking for an answer to a question that you brushed against but didn’t quite answer;
      One might keep the sequence post nominals because his mother is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz III and his wife is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz IV and socially that differentiation matters to the family.
      What if she prefers Mrs. Blanche DuBoise Wentz? Would she receive the III at the end or would she not?

             -- Donna Terry

Dear Ms. Terry:
     The sequence post nominals are used to clarify who is who. If the names are unique, then they aren't necessary.
     So, a woman who uses her given name would not use his sequence post nominal:
              Mrs. (Woman's Name)
               Mrs. Blanche DuBoise Wentz
    A woman using Mrs. and his full name would use it:
            Mrs. (Husband's Name)
            Mrs. Walter C. Wentz III
     -- Robert Hickey

How to Formally Write a Couple's Name
When He's a Jr. II, III, etc.?

        What is the proper way to write a couple's name when he is a "II".  
        The couple is Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames
        Do I write their name as:
                Wesley P. II and Patricia D. Ames
                Wesley P. and Patricia D. Ames II
        Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames
                -- K.L.O.

Dear K.L.O.,
         He’s the only one who is a “II" … so the "II" only appears when his name is written alone as a unit.
         When the names are formally presented …. He’s first.
                  (His Full Name) and (Her Full Name)
                  Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames
                  Mr. and Mrs. (His Full Name)
         Mr. and Mrs. Wesley P. Ames II
         These formulas work all the time … for couples who are and who are not juniors, II, III etc.
         What you are avoiding is:
                  Patricia D. and Wesley P. Ames II
         Because she is not:
                  Patricia D. Ames II
         When names are combined … combining is informal … his given and family name are last and are kept as a unit. AND .... Since it's not his full name, the Jr., II, III etc. is left off.
                  (Her Given Name) and (His Given and Family Name)
                  Patricia and Wesley Ames
         But one more thing about writing names -- especially if you are including names in a program on in a donor list:  When I look at donor/contributor lists, in programs or carved on founder’s walls in museums  — 95% are like I’ve stated above.  The other 5% are written in other ways.
         The final determination is — to write their name they way the persons submits their name to be presented.  In the end, savvy organizations present names the way the listed person says they want their name presented. It matters less that the editor doesn’t like the style …. It matters more if the contributor likes the style. It’s their name and it’s their money!
                  -- Robert Hickey

How to List a Couple's Name When He is a Jr. or Sr.?
       When writing a couple's name would you write Charles Henry, Sr. and Daisy Ellis Rivers. Or would it be Charles Henry and Daisy Ellis Rivers, Sr.

            -- Betsy Mizner @

      I am preparing programs for my wedding. We are listing our grandparents who have passed. My grandfather was a junior.  However, my grandmother, his wife, is also deceased.  Where do we put the junior as to not confuse him with the other men with those names?
      Example:  Jane and Thomas Smith, Jr. (?) or Thomas and Jane Smith, Jr.
            -- Kristen Smith

Dear Ms. Mizner & Ms. Smith:
       When one combines names ... as in ... Jane and Thomas Smith or
Charles Henry and Daisy Rivers ... these are casual, informal forms.
       The casual forms are sort of a free style ... there are no rules.  But with casual forms, the names can't be done as elegantly and consistently as they can when using formal forms. That's what the formal forms were developed to do ... to be consistent and elegant.
       #1 The traditional form for a married couple is:
              Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Smith Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rivers, Sr.
       #2 When you want to include both given names ... both her name and his ... write each name fully and do not combine them:
              Thomas Smith, Jr. and Jane Smith
Charles Henry Rivers, Sr. and Daisy Ellis Rivers
In such a listing, the and between their names indicates they are married/are a couple because individuals who are not married/are a couple are listed separately / not listed together.
              -- Robert Hickey

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
Below are other topics covered in my blog and at right is a list of officials, Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     After hunting around a bit, if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – with your name and any personal specifics changed.
      -- Robert Hickey

Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

Former Officials            
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       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
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United States Armed Services
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Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 26 February 2018

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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

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Book Photo: Marc Goodman.