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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

October 19, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Junior, Senior and So On

Q: We are trying to determine the correct order for namesakes in a family, i.e., grandpa was "George Buster Jones". When his son was born, grandpa became "George, Sr.", son became "George Buster Jones, Jr.". Now son had a baby; is he "George Buster Jones, III"? Or is there some other order these should be? We thought it was a generational thing. Can you explain how this works? -- Patricia

A: In today's society the use of such identifiers as Junior and Senior are based on generations within a given family. As you have described the grandfather is known as Senior. The father is known as Junior and the son becomes the third in the line, so he uses the roman numerals after his name. This can continue on as new generations of sons bearing the same name are born.

While this pattern is certainly true in modern times, it is not a good idea to make such assumptions when finding the same terms in records of long ago. Terms such as "Junior" and "Senior" were used more to refer to age than relationship in many of the towns and records.

It is not unusual to read in town records of John Smith, Sr., and John Smith, Jr., and know that they are not related by blood. Similar words such as niece and nephew are sometimes used in probate records and other items, even when that is not the actual relationship of the individuals. It is important to keep this in mind when working in these older records.

However, in your present circumstance, it would be quite appropriate for the son to be named George Buster, III.

Coming from England

Q: I was told that I had a great grandmother who brought my grandfather here from Bradford, Yorkshire England around 1910. How could I trace that? She must have had a passport but don't know for sure. -- Golden

A: The first step in this research is to verify when they arrived. I would suggest a search of the 1920 census. It is through this census that you will find out when they arrived in the United States and if they have gone through the naturalization process.

Passports were not required for travel up until recently. And if your great grandmother and your grandfather were immigrating to the United States it is possible that they did not travel with a passport. After all, their names and information were on the passenger list.

Once you have determined when your great grandmother and your grandfather immigrated, you will then want to turn your attention to the passenger lists. For most of those on the east coast, for the time period in question, there are indexes to these passenger lists. However, until you can verify the year of arrival, you may have trouble determining which of those in the index is indeed your family.

The indexes and the passenger lists are available on microfilm and can be ordered through your local Family History Center. They may also be available at your local public library if they have a good genealogy department.

Missing Generation

Q: I have my ancestor named James Brown married to Jennet (no maiden name). He was born about 1725. I have no birth date for her. How can I find her maiden name and their parent's names? Also, I have a gap between them to 1808 when Thomas Brown was born. I don't know which of James' and Jennet's children was his father. Where do I look? They were from Bedford Co. Virginia. -- Renea

A: Your research is in a time period when you do not have the option of census records for a quick peak at the family structure. So you must piece together families based on other records.

Since you know the county, I would suggest that you first get a feel for what records exist for Bedford County. See what probate records exist. Land records are another option, many times a father would sell land to a son for a small amount of money. These relationships are often spelled out in the land descriptions or another part of the deed.

It is possible that you will not find a single document that states that so and so is the father of James Brown. However, when you put together all of the evidence of your research, you may be able to draw a logical conclusion as to an individual who is most likely the father of James. The same process may work for Jennet after you can determine a maiden name.

Church records may hold the key to her maiden name. Also cemetery records, especially those done by the DAR, often include side notes in addition to the basic facts found on the tombstones.

Finally, a word about your assumption that Thomas Brown is the grandchild of James. You have quite a bit of time in between Thomas and James, almost 100 years. This is more likely going to reveal a total of three generations. From James, to one of his children, to a grandchild to Thomas. Traditionally, generations are approximately every thirty years. James was born in 1725. Thirty years would be to 1755. Thirty more years would be 1785. Of course, your prior research may already have proven that indeed there are only two generations.

Genealogical Education

Q: I am interested in the genealogy field but in western Nebraska I have no clue really how to get educated or started in this field. Do you have any ideas you can lend? I would be very thankful because I am trying to decide what I want to do as a lifetime career and this is one of my interests. -- Sandra

A: It sounds like you are looking into becoming a professional genealogist. While it is a regulated field and anyone can hang out a shingle, so to speak, I encourage anyone thinking of becoming a professional to make sure that they have gone through some of the educational opportunities that exist.

There are some colleges that offer independent study courses to help in educating genealogists in different aspects of the field. Genealogy is one of those endeavors that requires a working knowledge of so many other things. For instance, there are the early styles of writing that need to be learned. We need to have a working knowledge of legal terms and some medical terms. There are the measuring methods found in deeds.

Some of your knowledge will be garnered as you are working on your own family history. It is that hands-on experience that is the best teacher. Of course, your family research may not present all the possible problems that you may encounter.

Below are some links to online avenues to pursue in becoming a professional genealogist. Some of them offer educational options. Others are societies or groups that promote the very best in genealogical research by professionals.


Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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