Some of the old methods are still worthwhile in this new “modern” internet age.  Genealogists come in two sizes: experienced and newcomers.  The experienced folk (I decided not to say old-timers) came to genealogy back in days when we printed our family trees on paper.  Perhaps we did it by hand using tree templates or we had a computer and software like PAF.  In either case, we hated to re-print the same charts and we needed a way to place our charts in some order that allowed us to insert newly researched ancestors in place. Alpha sorting didn’t work well. A numeric scheme called AHNENTAFEL was developed that ordered our research by generation.

Time marched on and the Internet arrived. And then web sites began that allowed us to keep our trees “on-line” which protected us from computers that stopped working or fires or tornadoes and floods. Well respected sites like FamilySearch . org and Ancestry . com were developed and we slowly moved our research to these places. Sorting schemes were no longer needed because one could just “search”. Things were automatically in order.

Newcomers to the field only use the online sites, they have never used nor heard of “old fashioned” methods to order things. Newcomers generally don’t know about AHNENTAFEL. And old timers (oops, I did it) generally have stopped using AHNENTAFEL too because they have switched to using the new methods.

But, spreadsheets are good. And locating the most-recent-common-ancestors (MRCA) is one of the big challenges in DNA cousin hunting like cluster analysis. Using AHNENTAFEL numbers to order ancestors and a similar number for families can be very helpful.

An AHNENTAFEL (German for “ancestor table”) is a genealogical numbering system for listing a person’s direct ancestors in a fixed sequence of ascent. The subject of the ahnentafel is listed as No. 1, the subject’s father as No. 2 and the mother as No. 3, the paternal grandparents as No. 4 and No. 5 and the maternal grandparents as No. 6 and No. 7, and so on, back through the generations. Apart from No. 1, who can be male or female, all even-numbered persons are male, and all odd-numbered persons are female. In this schema, the number of any person’s father is double the person’s number, and a person’s mother is double the person’s number plus one.

Simply put, imagine a horizontal pedigree chart of ancestors. Number them starting with you as 1, father as 2, mother as 3, etc..


We need to teach AHNENTAFEL to newcomers and refresh the memories of oldcomers. Who wants to create a presentation for one of our next MoCoGenSo meetings? 😊

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