Namesake Norms: Will he be a Jr., II, or III?

Q: If my husband and I have a son, we would like to name him after my father-in-law, whose name was John Andrew Jones, Jr. and who has since passed away. My mother says we would simply name him John Andrew Doe, since his namesakes are both deceased. I, however, would like to name him John Andrew Doe III – even though I realize it’s not necessary to differentiate the child from his grandfather or great-grandfather.

However, I’ve also been told that that the ‘III’ is not appropriate if the name has skipped a generation (my husband doe not carry the namesake), and that instead I would use ‘II’ or nothing at all. I want to honor my father-in-law and grandfather-in-law, but at the same time I don’t want to do something that is completely inappropriate.

A: You are correct, and it is correct to use III. It doesn’t matter if the relatives sharing the name are living or deceased, the point is that your son would be the third in line to carry the name.


  1. paula

    Is is ok to take your cousins name and and name your son before your cousin has any children of his own and might want to name his own child after himself.
    Example. John Smith is your first cousin you decide to name your own son John Smith because you like the name.
    Now if the first cousin John Smith wants to name his son after himself there will be 3 John Smiths. Has he has lost his name sake to his first cousins son?

    • Alicia

      Absolutely, nobody has a trademark on a family name. For example when we did my family tree we found out that on my dads side of the family over 70% of the men in the last 300 years have been named John, William or Peter. So no big deal. That said nicknames abound at family gatherings real examples( Bill, Billy, Will, Willy, Little Bill, Bill Jr,B, B3)

  2. Becky

    While there is no trademark on a family name, it would be most appropriate to bring it up with your cousin before you take that step. For gosh sake, don’t surprise him or take him off guard – just show some common courtesy, guts and be proactive. You’ll probably learn real quickly if he has a problem with it, or is tickled to have another in the family. His child would be JSIII. your child would just be JS. you can also pick up the nickname and/or have a different first or middle name. James John Smith instead of John David Smith, etc. If you are trying to also pick up the generation to go with it (Jr, III, etc.) then you may have more of an issue because then it is not just a nice name, it is the family heritage. I actually have a friend that is a III. his brother had a son first and named him the IV! In that instance, there’s no trademark, but there is ‘dibs’! His brother had essentially stolen III’s namesake heritage from III’s son, born a year later. This also happened with a friend who picked a name for her daughter only to have her sister in law use it for her daughter born 3 months earlier than my friends daughter. So the two fathers (brothers) both have daughters named JD.

    The other alternative is that you’re going to do it anyway and/or you already know how he might react. If your cousin has a problem with it, you’d like to plead ignorance of his feelings on the matter (because you never discussed it with him) and then will defend your actions with supporting comments from strangers on the internet. Overly harsh I know, but a disturbingly common thread in the questions posted here.

    Regardless, you are on solid legal ground to name your child whatever you’d like, but I don’t believe this site is geared to what is legal…but instead what is thoughtful, courteous, promotes social harmony and structure.

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