Based on a slightly modified Dollarhide system, apologies to William Dollarhide
Genealogist often adopt a numbering system to keep everyone straight
in their database. Ahnentafel numbering and collateral numbering
systems abound. William Dollarhide proposed a system that seems to
marry all the strengths of a number of system. His work and thoughts on
this subject are no longer on the web so far as I can determine, but
they can be found on the internet archive Way Back Machine.
I adopted this system with some modifications and love it. If you
already know the Dollarhide system, the specific modifications proposed
by Cole (me) are listed separately Modification to Dollarhide Numbering.
If you just want to understand the modified system from scratch, the
brief tutorial below will hopefully suffice. Information on more
numbering systems (and this one) can be found in the Encyclopedia of Genealogy.
First, a person is selected as the
starting point who is directly related to those you are studying. All
people in the database related in any way to this person can be
numbered using this system. The starting person is person 1.
This can be anyone , but it will make sense if this is either your
oldest person for a descendant project or your youngest for an ancestry
Using traditional Ahnentafel or ancestry
numbering, the starting person's father is person 2, their mother is
person 3, paternal grandfather... person 4, paternal grandmother
...person 5, etc. Each person's father is double their own number; each
person's mother is double plus 1. Unlike Ahnentafel numbering, Dollarhide prescribes adding a decimal point and 0 (".0") to the number of each direct ancestor.
This is a very important modification as we shall see. All direct
ancestors have a number that ends in ".0". When presented with a list
(or items labeled with the numbers), it is very easy to identify direct
Here is an example of a starting person and their parents and grandparents:
Paternal grandfather 4.0
Paternal grandmother 5.0
Starting Person 1.0
Maternal Grandfather 6.0
Maternal Grandmother 7.0
Dollarhide prescribes that siblings and half-siblings of direct ancestors are numbered using a .1, .2, .3, .4,
etc. suffix. Thus all the (half-)siblings of person 3.0 are labeled
3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, etc. They are numbered in birth order (or whatever
the genealogists believes is the best order when birth order is not
available). A modification I have made is to skip the .n label corresponding to the direct ancestor. This allows us to see the birth order position of the direct ancestor at a glance.
entire set of siblings, including half siblings through each direct
ancestor parent, receive numbers that have the person number of the
direct ancestor. This makes it easy to identify these extended families.
is not uncommon to run out of numbers in the .1, .2, ... .8, .9 series.
In this case, we start with letters .A, .B, .C, .D, etc...
Here is an example of how to number siblings and half-siblings of a director answer 12.0:
Family of 25.0 with first husband:
Half sister 12.1
Family of direct Ancestors 24.0 & 25.0:
Older brother 12.2
Older sister 12.3
Direct Ancestor 12.0 (noticed 12.4 is skipped... we can see this and know that 12.0 is 4th)
Younger borther 12.5
Family of 24.0 with second wife:
You will note in the above example, we did not have numbers for the spouses. Dollarhide
prescribes denoting a non-direct ancestor spouse by a * suffix on the
spouses number. If there are more than one marriage, use *1, *2, *3, etc.,
in order of the marriage (or whatever order the genealogist things best
if this is not available). I have modified this system and skip the number of marriage corresponding to a marriage of the two direct ancestors.
This system applies to any marriage not of two direct ancestors. Thus
we can number spouses of siblings (12.1*) or previous or subsequent
spouses of direct ancestors. We have not yet described descendant
numbering (next section) but we also number spouses of descendants in
the same way.
Now we can label the spouses from the same example in the sibling discussion using secondary spouse labeling:
25.0*1 married to 25.0 (divorced or widowed)
24.0 married to 25.0 (divorced or widowed)
24.0 married to 24.0*2
Dollarhide prescribed numbering descendent's as well as ancestors. Descendants are numbered by appending a new number to their already numbered parent.
Thus descendent's of the starting person (who is 1.0) become 1.1, 1.2,
1.3, etc. Descendants of a sibling of a direct ancestor 9.0 are 9.1,
9.2, 9.3, etc. This is applied as often as needed, so grandchildren of
the starting person are 1.11, 1.12, 1.13 (children of 1.1) and 1.21,
1.22, 1.23 (children of 1.2). Note that some cousins have a nice
property in that they have similar numbers using their common ancestor.
Of course, cousins is a complex issue.
Trees within trees
Using the basic methods already
described, it is possible to number all ancestors and spouses going
backward. Additionally it is possible to begin going forward from any
of the direct ancestors. This allows us to number lots of the common
people in our databases. But what of mother's in law? Brothers and
sisters of in-laws? Or even their descendants? To do this we need to
stop and examine what the numbers are saying a bit more.
numbering conveniently allows us to go backward in the family line (2.0
to 4.0), to go laterally in a family (4.1, 4.2, 4.3) and to start going
down the family tree again (4.31, 4.32, 4.33). This change in direction
from backward to forward seems family natural. Dollarhide
prescribes that we can change direction in another way, too. When we
change from sibling or descendancy back to ancestry, we use a "/" to
show this. If we wish to start going backward from certain spouse
labeled person, 9.2*1, we can talk about their father as 9.2*1/2.0. We
treat everything on the left of the "/" as person 1 and move backward
using the basic rules again. 9.2*1/3.0 is the mother of 9.2*1. The tree
can continue backward (using ancestry numbering), and indeed forward
(using descendant numbering). This change of direction can be applied
at any level of descendancy. I think of it is a tree that grows within
Sometimes we just don't know the
birth or marriage orders. In such cases, I sometimes use a series x, y,
z (or other "late alphabet" letters). This shows that I really don't
know and encourages me to research and find out. It allows me to number
some other relatives on the basis of the temporary number. Of course,
if this gets out of hand you will find it not very useful. If it
remains a long term assignment, it is probably best to simply number
the item with best available inference (or guess) and move forward.
Multiple Starting Persons
is possible to denote more than one starting point. You might want to
do this for several different reasons. First, it might be desired to
describe more than one set of people for whom no relationship can be
exactly described (because they are unrelated, or because the
relationship cannot yet be described). In the case, we designate the
person one but put a unique prefix to work for each, for example person
1 to your main tree, but person Z1 for a set of related people whom you
eventually intend to find a precise relation as a fruit of research. Or
two equally important trees could be described with designations A1 and
B1 for root people. When people are related in some way to both root
persons, you must choose between two possible labels, or you could at
that point renumber everyone is one or the other trees (using the
common person as the starting point).
Another reason for
multiple roots can be a political issue of naming a set of siblings as
root. This can be done by designating all siblings as 1.x. For example,
1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 for three brothers and sisters who will all be
treated as root person. If the children do not have the same parents,
one set is selected for the direct descendant line, and the other
parents are labeled using secondary spouse names. I used this situation
for my database, because I wanted my two daughters to be the root
people, 1.1 and 1.2.
Another reason that I have encountered for
using multiple roots is to truncate an extremely deep ancestry
numbering. Many tools (PAF being one of them) have a limited number of
characters in their custom number fields. When you reach the limit, you
must designate a person as a new root. This shortens the numbers again
so they fit in the fields. Using the on-line and printed research
material, it is not uncommon to have Ahnentafel numbers that go into
the 10's and 100's of millions. You must restart the numbering on such
trees in many programs when this occurs.
Using the Labels
I assign the number manually in PAF & PAFWIZ using the custom ID
field. I ask PAF & PAFWIZ to dispaly the custom ID after the names
on the screen.
One of the most convenience ways I use the
numbers is in labeling files on my computer. I actually uses the ids to
label reports (e.g. 12.0 Individual Full Name.pdf, 12.0 & 13.0
Family Group Full Names.pdf, 12.0 Pedigree Full Name.pdf, etc), to
label picture files (12.0 Name (date) Place.jpg), and sources (15.0
Birth Certificate Name Issuer), etc. You cannot use the * character in
the file name nor the separator (/) in many operating systems, so you
have to device a substitute. I use o for * and - for / (just for file