Sunday, 14 December 2014

Cousins, calculations and Christmas

I've been spending the day adding people to my Lost Cousins Ancestors page. If you haven't heard of this genealogy tool, do have a look at the link. I subscribe to the newsletter, which editor and founder Peter Calver fills with useful genealogy tips and the occasional offer or competition.

This month's contest involves entering as many ancestors or blood relatives as you can, based on selected England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, US and Canada censuses. The earliest is the 1841 England & Wales census, which is too late for most of my Aussie ancestors, and finding my early emigrants' and convicts' families is a tough job, full of brick walls.

Still, I'm a genealogist, and we're a stubborn persistent lot, so I keep chipping at those ancient walls. No-one ever said family history was easy, did they? Or if they did... well, don't listen.

And fossicking out direct ancestors' brothers and sisters often gives surprisingly useful clues, as well as filling up my Lost Cousins list and increasing my chances of contacting my living rellies. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm hopeful (another genealogists' characteristic).

I was pleased to find my 4xgreat grandmother, Margaret Richardson (born around 1789 in Hamsterley, Co Durham), in the 1841 census. Off I hurried to add her to my ancestors' list, when I came up  against a problem. I had to enter her Ahnentafel number. You know, those numbers you see on family tree charts and other genea-tools.

When I've needed an Ahnentafel number before, I've gone to my trusty battered paper family tree chart, which goes back to my 3xgreats. I know, not very tech, but it weighs nothing and I can slip in my bag when there's even a slight chance of fitting in some genealogy action that day.

But Margaret's off the scale. She's a 4xgreat. And I know it's a shocking thing to say, but I had no idea how to calculate the numbers, short of counting all the way up from 63 (my Irish 3xg, Julia Harrington).

A quick search came up with the answer, which is so simple that I had to share it, in case there are any other Ahnen-newbies in the Worldwide Genealogy community.

Here's how: to find out the number for someone's parents, take their number and multiply it by 2. That gives the father. Add 1 and you have their mother.

It really works! Though if you're going back a few centuries you may need a calculator.

For example:my parents. I'm the person I'm calculating from on my family tree, so my number's 1. 1x2+2. So my father's number is 2. 2+1=3. So my mother's is 3.

Oh, no! Margaret's off the chart.
Getting more complicated, to calculate 4xgreat granny Margaret, I take her daughter Elizabeth Bell (1810-1876). Elizabeth has Ahnentafel number 59, which will always mean the number 1 person's mother's mother's father's mother's mother. On any Ahnentafel you see. Clever, eh?

59x2=118. And I'm looking for the mother, so add 1. 118+1=119. And that's Margaret's number.

You can also work out Ahnentafel numbers using the binary system, but I'm going to stick to what I know.

And there's a clever site that does all the work for you, set up by Stephen P Morse.

But that's enough hard work, it's nearly Christmas! I've got two weeks off work so I'm going to get down to searching for my earliest female Australian, Elizabeth Bayly, wife of Nicholas Delaney. Anhentafel 49, in case you wondered. Ohh, but, she's hard work. And over on my A Rebel Hand blog there's a scary Christmas story to write for later in the month.

Have you got any genea-projects for the holiday season?

Wishing you a very merry Christmas, a happy Yuletide, Nadolig Llawen, Nollaig Shona dhaoibh, Nollaig Chridheil, Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad und Fröhliche Weihnachten!


  1. Merry Christmas Rebel Hand. Nice hints on numbering. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Carol! Happy New Year to you.


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