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Naming II, Jr., III, IV, etc.

Apr 22, 2013 - 0 comments

From Robert Hickey, Deputy Director of the Protocol School of Washington, author of "Honor & Respect," --


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

Dear Mr. Hickey:
I am not sure of the name sequence in the following situation. My son is Walter C. Wentz IV.  His father and grandfathers are deceased.  What is the proper designation for him now?  What is the proper designation for the son he is expecting next month? I would very much appreciate your guidance and expert advice.
         --- Audrey Parker

Dear Ms. Parker:
    The name one uses is up to the person: So Mom, you won't be deciding anything here, you can only advise!
    Continued use is often a matter of clarity for those one encounters.
    1) Some men drop the sequence post-nominals ... Jr., II, or III ... when their father dies and they think it unlikely there will be social or professional confusion.
    2) Some men keep the sequence post-nominals 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 ... his IV becomes less necessary.
           -- Robert Hickey

How to use I, II, III, IV?
      Aloha, Mr. Hickey,
      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?
      Thank you for your assistance.  We look forward to your reply.
        -- 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 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.   A boy who is given the same name as a relative (in memory of or to honor that relative) is named at birth (Full name), II.
     3) Any boy named after a "Jr." or a "II" is a III. Any boy named after a "III." is a IV. etc.
     4) 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 keep being the name you were given at birth.  Many men stop using the Jr. 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." all the time ... many don't.
      -- Robert Hickey

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