Namesake Confusion - Who's a Junior, Anyway?

Filed under: Baby Names

My brother and his wife just had a baby boy (brother's second son)and named him after my brother which makes him a jr. My question is, is it ok to name your second son jr. and not your first son?

- JustAsking

If Richard Mark has a son named Richard Mark, Jr., does Richard Mark Jr.'s son become Richard Mark II or III?

- Not Richard Mark

In America, there are few rules to baby naming. You aren't required to name your first son after dad's father and your second after mom's father. You're free to name for family, friends, strangers or soap opera characters. You can make up a whole new name, or name the baby after the place she was conceived. (You've heard the old "baby Chevrolet" jokes, right?)

Maybe that's why, when we do come across a realm of naming rules, we freak out. Parents get nervous about using Junior, II and III, because it's one of the few kinds of baby naming you can actually get wrong. Not to fear, family-name fans. Here's the Name Lady's quick guide to namesakes.
What's the order? Richard, Richard Jr., Richard III, Richard IV.

Hey, what happened to II? If you're following a direct paternal line, you traditionally don't use the suffix II. A Richard II would be named after a living relative other than the father, such as an uncle or grandfather.

Do middle names count? Traditionally, a suffix is only used for exact namesakes, including identical middle names. That's why President George H. W. Bush's son George W. Bush wasn't a Jr. But some families -- like Ronald Reagan's -- like to tack on a Jr. even when the middle names don't match, to avoid confusion.

Which kids are eligible? A son does not have to be first-born to be named for his father. Many families honor other relatives such as grandparents first, then name later children after the parents.

What if one in the line has passed away? There's no consistent etiquette for this situation. Some suggest that the suffixes are only to be used to distinguish among living relatives, and that if the first Richard is deceased, all his namesakes should "move up" a number. Personally, I lean toward keeping the suffix you were given at birth. It exists to honor and remember your family, a function which continues even after the loved ones themselves are gone.

But I don't wanna do it that way! OK, suit yourself. Family preference is what really determines the suffix, especially nowadays. If you do choose a non-standard usage, don't feel the need to make excuses. Just explain the suffix to anybody who asks, with a smile and a kind word about the relatives you've chosen to honor.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.