## 23 April 2019

### 3 Things to Do with Ahnentafel Numbers

This numbering system takes all the guesswork out of which ancestor is which.

Did you realize each of your direct ancestors has a number? It's a number that never changes. And my ancestor #126 is the same as your ancestor #126. They're not the same person, but they are our mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's father.

We call this numbering system Ahnentafel numbers. Ahnentafel is German for ancestor (ahnen) table (tafel). Here's how it works.

In your family tree, you are #1, your father is #2, and your mother is #3. The rest follows a pattern. All male ancestors have even numbers and all female ancestors have odd numbers.

 Ahnentafel numbers let me sort a column of ancestors easily.

You can figure out the numbers yourself. Let's use your father, Ahnentafel #2, as an example. His father is double his number (so, 4) and his mother is 1 more than his father (so, 5).

One of my 2nd great grandmothers is #31, so her father is double that (62) and her mother is 1 more than her father (63).

Family Tree Maker has an Ahnentafel report to figure them all out for you. Choose yourself, or anyone in your tree who you want to be #1, and run the report. But what can you do with these numbers?

Here are 3 useful things you can do with your Ahnentafel numbers.

I created a grandparent chart to keep track of all the direct ancestors I've identified. Here's a blank chart you can use—now updated with numbers in the cells. Some of the longer columns were getting pretty full. That's when I realized Ahnentafel numbers would help me keep the people in each column in the right order. It helps me see where the missing ancestors belong, too.

Be sure to see 3 Ways to Find Double Ancestors in Your Family Tree which highlights another benefit of using Ahnentafel numbers in your grandparent chart.

2. List Them Out

Let's say you want to see who's missing, but you don't want a grandparent chart. You can list your ancestors in numerical order, like this:
1. you
2. father
3. mother
4. paternal grandfather (your father's father)
5. paternal grandmother (your father's mother)
6. maternal grandfather (your mother's father)
7. maternal grandmother (your mother's mother)
8. great-grandfather (your father's father's father)
9. great-grandmother (your father's father's mother)
10. great-grandfather (your father's mother's father)
11. great-grandmother (your father's mother's mother)
12. great-grandfather (your mother's father's father)
13. great-grandmother (your mother's father's mother)
14. great-grandfather (your mother's mother's father)
15. great-grandmother (your mother's mother's mother)
Continue the list as far as you can until you hit a missing number. That's the closest ancestor you're missing.

Here's a simple tool to help you figure out which number belongs to which ancestor. Simply enter a number in the box to see their relationship to you, like #120, your mother's mother's mother's father's father's father.

The first ancestor I'm missing is Ahnentafel #59, my mother's mother's father's mother's mother, or my 3rd great grandmother.

I'm not missing another one until #109, my mother's father's mother's mother's father's mother, or my 4th great grandmother.

My missing 3rd great grandmother and handful of missing 4th great grandparents need my attention. If I didn't look at my tree in this way, I wouldn't know exactly who is missing.

 This section of my ancestor chart shows each ancestor's Ahnentafel number.

3. Create a Custom Ahnentafel Chart

I added a new custom Ahnentafel field in Family Tree Maker. (Go to Edit / Manage Facts / New. Use Ahnentafel for the Fact label, but uncheck the boxes for Date and Place.) I can add the proper Ahnentafel number to each of my direct ancestors.

Now I can create my vertical pedigree chart and see the numbers. It's easier to see exactly who's missing in this graphical format.

No matter how you do it, think of your Ahnentafel numbers as a tool to show you where to focus your research work. I really want to find the name of my #59.

You may not think of genealogy as a numbers game, but these numbers can help you fortify your family tree. Don't miss the companion article on this topic. Plus, I found a 4th great thing to do! Make your own Elder Scroll.

1. Brilliant! Guess I have a job to do today. Thanks!

2. I’m planning to use the Ahnentafel numbers when I get to reorganizing my computer files!

3. I love your blog posts......can you tell us which software program you use for your family data?

1. Thanks, Trish. I use Microsoft Excel to charting my ancestors, keeping track of all the documents I've collected, and more. I use Family Tree Maker and sync it with Ancestry.com.

4. I no longer use Ancestry and find my sources from Family Search and usually County Resources and such sources. I use RootsMagic as my database for compiling charts also. And also of course, Excel. Thanks for sharing your info. I follow you on Pinterest as I no longer use Facebook.

1. Thanks, again. I make a point of sharing all my articles in Pinterest.

5. This is great, but I am a bit confused. I downloaded the blank chart and line 1 is the title line, line 2 is the line that shows how many grandparents per generation and then the first blank line starts with line 3, which makes the grandparents line 4-7 short a colored space (#7). Shouldn't the colored lines start with line 4? If I am reading what each person's relationship is--me line 1, father line 2, mother line 3 etc. I am new to this type of chart, so I am probably not reading it correctly.

1. You and your parents don't go on this chart because it starts with your grandparents. The first column has 4 colored cells: 1 for each of your grandparents. You have 4, so that's lines 4, 5, 6, 7. The purpose of the colors is to keep your 4 main branches separate and show you who belongs to whom.

6. can I change the colors on this chart to match the colors I'm already using? This would be less confusing if the colors all match

1. Sure. Once you download the spreadsheet, you can change the colors. Do a Find and Replace, choose Format, Fill, and select the color to change. In the Replace section, select the color you want to use.

7. found it thank you!

8. Can you tell me if can you print Ahnentafel report in Family Tree Maker 2019? I have been looking everywhere for online or desktop family tree software that will generate this report. Any recommendations would be appreciated!

Tracy

1. There isn't an option for an Ahnentafel report in Family Tree Maker. I created a custom field called Ahnentafel so I could print a custom report. I didn't see any way that the program tells you what their numbers are.

10. Has anyone discovered a way to add a field in Ancestry(dot)com, so that the ahnentafel numbers can be listed right along with the person in the tree? I am frustrated with trying to figure out where to put this info. Thanks.

1. You might try putting their Ahnentafel number in or on their profile picture. I do my work in Family Tree Maker and use color-coding to make my direct ancestors impossible to miss.

2. Use the suffix field.

11. Thank you for another great post and for the grandparent chart. This is great! I just hope that I'm filling it in correctly. :)

12. My mother's mother died at a young age and my grandfather remarried. How & where would I enter her name?
Thank you for a great blog!

1. As a step-grandparent, she doesn't get an Ahnentafel number, so she wouldn't be in this chart.

13. I suspect that my previous comment and question sent to you has been lost. I wondered if you had considered making a Surname Table similar to that created by Devon Noel Lee https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI_RsAmtEAM and if so compare the benefits of it as compared to making an Ahnentafel chart like you show in this article. Thank you so much for any reply.

1. You're right, Priscilla. You message never got to me before. I watched that video, and I suppose some people would like having that reference table handy, but not me. My ancestors all came from the same area, and the names are repeated over and over again. I can see any of my towns' last names in the tree of a DNA match and know which town they came from.

I do keep a separate alphabetical list to show me all the surnames of my direct ancestors. There are 115 names, and I tallied up how many direct ancestors I have found with each name (e.g. 6 Sarracino, 18 Zeolla). Then I added color-coding so I can identify which of my grandparent's branches each name comes from (e.g. Sarracino is only on my maternal grandmother's line, Zeolla is on all 3 of my other grandparents' lines).

14. My earliest missing is #075. Do I leave the color of the field as blank to make it easier to spot? I know #075's first name because of a census report but not her maiden name.

Other missing 4th great grandparents: Numbers 081, unknown probably in Virginia or North Carolina; 085 unknown first name Dunkenberger, 087 Maria nee unknown, both from Germany; 091, Martha nee unknown, South Carolina; 107, unknown, probably from Virginia; 112 & 113, from Ireland; and finally 123, Nancy nee unknown, from Kentucky.

I like this format a lot. Another question: Why do you change the color on the first two fourth great grandparents? If you mentioned this in the article, I must have missed it.

Steve

1. Hi, Steve. I would leave the color in place so you're clear which branch it is. A blank cell, even with color, still stands out. I have some ancestors with an orange color because my paternal grandparents were 3rd cousins, giving me double ancestors. Grandpa's color is yellow and Grandma's is pink, so their shared ancestors are orange.

15. I very much appreciate this spreadsheet. Thank you!