The Name Game
One of the best things you can do to add to your research for verifying and documenting your ancestors is understanding your ancestors everyday practices, such as language, customs, religion, and even the practice of passing a name onto a child.
The naming of children is one of those practices, especially when a child is a son named after the father. Being from mostly Germanic ancestry, I have learned that the name of Johan was a common first name for male offspring, but it was not the name typically used throughout that son’s life. Case in point, my ancestor Johannes Mueller (Miller) had a brother named Jacob, but his full name was Johan Jacob Mueller. That practice was not solely used for males either. The name of Maria as a first name, used for females, was a very common practice as well.
Understanding that different cultures had different naming practices will help you, especially if you have a very diverse cultural background. The combination of having an understanding of the language and the naming practices of your ancestors will pay off in the long run.
Let’s look at how the common rules apply for a father that named his son with the exact same name as his own (middle name included)*.
Rule #1: Parent & Child with Same Name = Sr. + Jr.
This one is pretty easy. You undoubtedly already know it. Any parent and child with the exact same legal name can be referred to as “(Name), Sr.” and “(Name), Jr.” Say, Barnabas Ludwig Johnson named his son Barnabas Ludwig Johnson also, so they can be called Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, Sr., and Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, Jr.
Rule #2: In Order to Use Suffixes, Names Must be EXACTLY the Same
This is a rule that is abused a lot. Unless the full name of two related individuals is entirely, exactly the same (first name, any and all middle names or lack thereof, and last name), then they cannot correctly use suffixes. Families have broken this rule in the past.
Rule #3: For More than Two Same-Named Individuals, Use Roman Numeral Suffixes
What if there are more than two same-named individuals in the family? Then, they can use Roman numeral (i.e. I, II, III, IV, etc.) suffixes after their name, to designate the order in which they were born.
Rule #4: “Sr.” and “Jr.” Only Apply to LIVING Parents and Children
If a parent and child are using the suffixes “Sr.” and “Jr.”, but the parent dies, then they are referred to merely as “(Name) I” / “(Name), the first” and “(Name) II” / “(Name), the second”. Should Barnabas Ludwig Johnson Sr. tragically die, his son would now be called Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II, and the deceased father would now be lovingly remembered by the name Barnabas Ludwig Johnson I. Continuing to call the son “Jr.” (unless “Junior” had simply become his nickname), would create confusion, as it would indicate that his father were still alive.
Rule #5: Roman Numeral Suffixes Are Allowed to Skip Generations
If a person is named after an ancestor such as a grandparent or great grandparent, the Roman numeral suffixes still apply. The elder can be called “(Name) I” and the younger can be called “(Name) II”.
Let us imagine that a century ago, there was a man named Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, who had a son named Barnabas Astredo Johnson. They would not be “Sr.” and “Jr.”, or “I” and “II”. But if Barnbas Astredo Johnson were to name his son Barnabas Ludwig Johnson, after the child’s grandfather, then Barnabas Astredo Johnson’s son would be Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II, and the original Barnabas would become Barnabas Ludwig Johnson I. And, of course, if Barnabas Ludwig Johnson II has a son of the same name, that son could be called Barnabas Ludwig Johnson III.
There are more rules, but I believe you get the picture…
Looking back at the “West Virginia and Its People” book and the article relating to Seaton Coleman, Sr. and Seaton Coleman, Jr., the middle name, Lorenzo of Seaton Coleman, Sr. was as puzzling to me as the fact that is specifically states that he came from Ireland. Now, the name Lorenzo, in and of itself, seems to be out of place, as having researched many branches of the Coleman family of Virginia, I have not come across the name of Lorenzo being passed down, which, passing down names was a very common practice. The most common names passed down through the Colemans of Virginia were, Daniel, John, William, James, and Samuel, but the name of Seaton shows up in some of the related lines to James Adolphus Coleman (see my 1st blog post regarding James). There is also one other name that appears in the Coleman tree more than once. The name of Lindsey.
So, based on the above rules, technically, we should be calling Seaton Coleman, Sr. and Seaton Coleman, Jr., Seaton Coleman I and Seaton Coleman II. For now, we’ll just stick with Sr. and Jr., as it will make it less confusing.
There is no question about the middle initial for the two above mentioned Seatons, the middle initial being the letter “L”.
There are two documents that will clear up the question of Seaton Coleman, Sr.’s middle name.
First, we will look at the grandson of Seaton Coleman, Jr.
The grandson of Seaton Coleman, Jr. was the son of Howard E. Coleman. Howard’s son was Seaton Lindsey Coleman, born May 28, 1907.
So, we can ascertain from this that Seaton Coleman, Jr’s middle name was Lindsey.
The 2nd document is the death certificate of one of Seaton Jr.’s sons, James Emery Coleman. The informant of the death certificate has clearly indicated that the name of James Coleman’s father was Seaton Lindsey Coleman.
What we can take away from this is very simple…do not trust what someone has authored without some kind of source documentation. If you suspect an ancestors name has been misquoted or misinterpreted in a history book, take a little time to get the records you need to verify what you believe to be correct.
So what are the chances that Seaton Coleman, Sr.’s middle name was Lorenzo?
Let’s just say slim to none.
My next blog will step away from the Coleman family, as I have something to share that I hope will help those that are having difficulty finding their ancestors who may be hiding in plain sight.
Images taken from Ancestry.com and West Virginia Culture and History Death Records Search
*Source for Naming Rules: Emily Post website
Brian S. Miller