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Background: My parents were having a discussion of how name suffixes can be utilized if I started having children, how would name suffixes occur. This was all hypothetical.

My father, and let's call him, Bob, claims that if I (who has a different name from Bob) have a child named, "Bob", then I will be able to name my child Bob II (Bob, the second) or Bob Jr. He thinks that regardless of a generational gap between the child and father, his grandson is allowed to have a suffix for his own name that indicates a succeeding suffix for the name of Bob.

My mother claims that I would not be able to name my child Bob II or Bob Jr. because in order to have such suffix requires a continual generational naming convention. For instance, if my name was Bob, then I can name my child Bob II or Bob Jr. if and only if my name was Bob. Therefore, if my father's and child's name was Bob, it has to be Bob and only Bob without any suffixes.

I've tried looking for laws in the United States that says anything about suffixes for names but I haven't found anything.

Question: Are there any laws in the United States or any of its states that restrict the usage of name suffixes, such as II, or Jr., or IV, etc.? Whose claim was correct about when it is legal to use name suffixes?

  • I suspect there isn't any such law, but it's hard to prove a negative... – Nate Eldredge Dec 12 '17 at 3:53
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffix_(name)#Generational_titles doesn't really discuss laws, but has a number of examples of variant conventions. For instance, the son of President Ulysses S. Grant was "Ulysses Jr.". However, "Ulysses III" was not the son of Ulysses Jr., but rather his nephew. Ulysses Jr. later had a son and named him Ulysses IV. If there was a law, you'd think the offspring of a president would have been likely to obey it... – Nate Eldredge Dec 12 '17 at 3:55
  • Your parents are both mistaken. My understanding is that the traditional system is for Bob Jr to be someone named after his father Bob, while Bob II would be someone named after his grandfather or older ancestor. I am unaware of any legal regulation of such matters, however; it's purely a convention. – phoog Dec 12 '17 at 4:41
  • My father has "III" printed on his New York State birth certificate. His paternal grandfather was (according to our records) generation title-less, despite the fact that his paternal grandfather had had the same name as well, as there was a father in the middle who had a different name. – Robert Columbia Sep 14 '18 at 19:41
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The law allows you to name your child whatever you want with some exceptions: names containing ideograms, pictograms, diacritical marks, obscenities or too long names are prohibited. That said, there is no law to forbid naming your child Bob Jr. (or even Bob Sr. or Bob The Great).

With numbers, things are a little bit tricky and vary from state to state, but using Roman suffixes is normally allowed, which means the law won't stop you naming your child Bob XVII or whatever:

No state prohibits the use of a numeral if it is spelled out. It would be permissible, for example, to name a child "Eight." But several states prohibit the use of a numerical symbol, which would prohibit naming a child "8." New Jersey, for example, permits the State Registrar to reject names that contain "numerals" or a "combination of letters, numerals, or symbols. In Illinois, administrative practice prohibits numerals when used as the first character in a child’s name. Texas prohibits numerals as part of the name or suffix, although Roman numerals may be used for suffixes. Thus, a child could be named "John William Turner III," but not "John William Turner 3" or "John William 3 Turner."

(from the paper by Carlton F.W. Larson).

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    A former reporter for the New York Times is named Jennifer 8. Lee. – phoog Dec 13 '17 at 22:47

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