Jul 2, 2021

(+) Genealogy Numbering Systems

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.

When reading genealogy books or articles in magazines and online sites, you may have encountered some numbers that seemed cryptic.

Remember the “good old days” when you first started searching for your family tree? You probably only had 50 or so identified ancestors in those days, and you could easily remember the name of each one. However, as time went by, you searched many records and found more ancestors. The number grew and grew. Eventually you encountered some difficulty in organizing the information you had available. This was especially true in families where names are often re-used time and again by newer generations.

For instance, I have found 5 different men named Samuel Harmon in my Family tree and I am sure there probably were more. After a while, as the numbers increased, I found myself asking “WHICH Samuel Harmon?” Many other families have the same “problem.”

There are myriad ways to organize genealogy data. The “best method” depends upon your own preferences and organizational skills. For many of us, a computer is a valuable organizational tool. Whether you use a high tech device or paper and pencil, eventually you will want to produce lists of ancestors or descendants. Ideally, those lists should be in a format that is easy to read and quickly understood. Sooner or later, you will look at assigning identity numbers to each individual.

Most computer programs assign numbers to each individual within the program’s database. Some of the programs display these numbers on the screen and in printed reports, while other programs keep the database numbers hidden. These numbers typically may be meaningful to the individual who maintains the database but are generally meaningless to everyone else. There seems to be little point in printing these internal numbers on reports to be given to others.

When generating printed reports and lists, the information can be confusing. The more names on the list, the more difficult it is to remember “who is who.” This can partially be solved by assigning meaningful numbers to each individual on the list.

Several genealogy numbering systems have been invented for reports and lists. These numbers are temporary; that is, the numbers are used for this one report and then typically are discarded. The sole purpose of these numbers is to simplify the organization of data in the one report. If another report is needed at a future date, the numbers can easily be recalculated at that time.

Most numbering systems also revolve around a single base individual. That is, numbers are calculated in relationship to that one person. The calculated numbers are then assigned to the ancestors or descendants of that person. The exceptions are in Henry Numbers and d’Aboville Numbers, to be discussed later in this article.

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