Ahnentafel, Anyone?

You’ve probably run across the word “Ahnentafel” over the course of your research, but have you ever had it explained? The word’s origin is German for “ancestor table.” Most recently, however, it refers to a particular kind of numbering system used to keep track of our ancestors. Best used with pedigrees, as opposed to the more complex descendancies, Ahnentafel numbering allows each ancestor in the pedigree to have a discrete identification number (in ascending order).

The ahnentafel construct displays an individual’s genealogy compactly, without the need for a family tree or other diagram. This binary code-like abbreviated system can be particularly useful in space- or image-restricted situations, like sharing your genealogical findings with a family member via email, or with a larger group in a plain text forum. 

In his book, “Managing a Genealogical Project,” William Dollarhide describes Ahnentafel numbering in layman’s terms. Making excellent use of charts and tables, this book also explains the three main types of descendancy numbering systems for genealogy: the Register System, the Record System, and the Henry System.

Besides clearly describing the term, Ahnentafel, “Managing a Genealogical Project,” offers a number of other suggestions for organizing family history data – with or without a computer. Readers learn how to solve the paper collection problem, how and how not to take notes, and what to do with your correspondence. One of the most important features of the book is the collection of “Master Forms” (relationship chart, research log, ancestor table, etc.), which can be photocopied over and over again to enter and organize the information gathered by hand. Other “beginner” genealogy books can be found here.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Costados de Anselmo Braamcamp FreireFrom the book “Brasões da Sala de Sintra”, by Anselmo Braamcamp Freire

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