Continue this pattern through the line of ancestors

The mathematical relationship works the same way going forward through the generations — a child's number is one-half the father's number and one-half (minus any remainder) the mother's number.

In a list form, the ahnentafel for April's grandfather looks like the following list (see Figure 3-1 for the chart):

1 John Duff Sanders, b. 10 Mar 1914 in Benjamin, Knox Co., TX; d. 15 Mar 1996 in Seymour, Baylor Co., TX; ma. 24 Dec 1939 in Sherman, Grayson Co., TX.

2 John Sanders, b. 19 Oct 1872 in Cotton Plant, Tippah Co., MS; d. 2 Mar 1962 in Morton, Cochran Co., TX; ma. 28 Sep 1902 in Boxelder, Red River Co., TX.

3 Nannie Elizabeth Clifton, b. 1 Apr 1878 in Okolona, MS; d. 27 Apr 1936 in Morton, Cochran Co., TX.

4 Harris Sanders, b. 27 Mar 1824 in Montgomery Co., NC; d. 21 Feb 1917 in Tippah Co., MS; ma. 26 June 1853.

5 Emeline Crump, b. 20 Oct 1836; d. 21 Feb 1920 in Tippah Co., MS.

6 William Clifton, b. 5 Mar 1845 in SC; d. 9 Feb 1923 in Boxelder, Red River Co., TX; ma. 5 Nov 1872 in Birmingham, AL.

7 Martha Jane Looney, b. 8 Mar 1844; d. Boxelder, Red River Co., TX.

Figure 3-1:

An ahnentafel for April's grandfather, John Duff Sanders.

© Harris Sanders

(John's paternal grandfather)

(John's father)

© Emeline Crump

2(2y)+ 1 (John's paternal grandmother)

® John Duff Sanders


© William Clifton

©Nannie Elizabeth Clifton

2 (2y + 1) (John's maternal grandfather)

2y + 1 (John's mother)

© Martha Jane Looney

2 (2y + 1) + 1 (John's maternal grandmother)

John Duff Sanders is number one because he's the base individual for the ahnentafel. His father (John Sanders) is number two (because 2 x 1 = 2), and his mother (Nannie Elizabeth Clifton) is number three (2 x 1 + 1 = 3). His father's father (Harris Sanders) is four (2 x 2 = 4), and his father's mother (Emeline Crump) is five (2 x 2 + 1 = 5). John Sanders' number (2) is one-half his father's number (4 ^2 = 2), or one-half minus any remainder of his mother's number (5 ^2 = 2.5; 2.5 minus remainder of .5 = 2) — well, you get the idea.

As you can imagine, after a while, you begin to tire from all these calculations — especially if you do them for ten or more generations of people. So, if your genealogy software supports it, we highly recommend that you run an ahnentafel report from it — saving you a lot of time and trouble.

The tiny tafel system

Some people confuse ahnentafel with tiny tafel, which is a compact way to show the relationships within a family database. Tiny tafel provides only the Soundex code for a surname, and the dates and locations where that surname may be found according to the database. (For more on Soundex codes and how they work, check out Chapter 2.) Computer programs sometimes use tiny tafels to match the same individual in two different genealogy databases. The following example shows a tiny tafel:









1936 Clifton\South Carolina/Cochran

1920 Crump/Mississippi

Looney/Red River Co. TX

1996 Sanders\Montgomery Co.

NC/Baylor Co. TX

The Henry system

The Henry system is another well-known numbering system. This system assigns a particular number to the progenitor, or the ancestor farthest back (that you know about) in your family line. Then each of the progenitor's children is assigned a number in a sequence that starts with his number and adds the numbers one, two, three, and so forth through nine. (If the progenitor had more than nine children, the tenth child is assigned an X, the eleventh an A, the twelfth a B, and so on.) Then the children's children are assigned the parent's number plus a number in sequence (again one through nine, then X, A, B, and so on). For example, if progenitor number one (1) had 12 children, then his children would be 11, 12, 13, . . . 1X, and 1A. The eleventh child's children would be assigned the numbers 1A1, 1A2, 1A3, and so forth.

For example, suppose that one of your ancestors, John Jones, had 12 children. The names of these children were Joseph, Ann, Mary, Jacob, Arthur, Charles, James, Maria, Esther, Harriett, Thomas, and Sophia. Joseph had one child named Gertrude and Thomas had three children named Lawrence, Joshua, and David. Under the standard Henry system, the children's children are numbered like this:

John Jones Joseph Jones Gertrude Jones


Ann Jones


Mary Jones


Jacob Jones


Arthur Jones


Charles Jones


James Jones


Maria Jones


Esther Jones


Harriett Jones


Thomas Jones





Lawrence Jones Joshua Jones David Jones Sophia Jones

By no means are these systems the only genealogical numbering systems in existence. Ahnentafel and Henry are just two of the easier systems to learn. Several others have been designed to display genealogies in book form, such as the Register system (based on the style of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register) and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly system. If you're curious about some of these systems, take a look at the Numbering Systems in Genealogy page at There you can find descriptions of each major numbering system and variations of these systems.

If you decide to use a numbering system, you can place the corresponding unique number for each individual on the file that you set up for that person in your paper record-keeping system, as well as in your genealogical software.

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