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Senior and Junior, occasionally tricky

Sr. ~ Jr. created by Stefan Israel

Senior and Junior. Two Latin words meaning ‘the elder’ and ‘the younger’. Normally it’s straightforward- John Sr. is the father, John Jr. is the son, and a grandson is then John III.

But here’s a cautionary tale, telling you to dig deeper when it’s just not making sense.

In our own family, we ran into the confusion these words can cause. In 1790, we found in the census John Sr. and John Jr. living next door to each other, but they were, awkwardly, only six years apart in age.

This was a problem.

Well, senior just meant ‘the elder’ and junior ‘the younger’. And they were first cousins. And everyone in the village knew them as the younger and as the older of the two John cousins. It was us coming in nearly two centuries later who were misled by the older, literal use of the words.

It wasn't until much more contemporary times that Senior and Junior came to mean father/son by default. In genealogy, always learn the context of the times.

Clip from 1790 US Census in Frederick Maryland with John Israel Junr and Senr


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