Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two types of numbering systems

This past week I was involved in two separate conversations about numbering systems on Facebook and on a mailing list.  There was some confusion because there are two completely different types of numbering systems. 

The first type of numbering system is one that you use to keep your paper files and your digital files in order.  There are many ways to do this.  A very popular method is using the record identification number (RIN) or the marriage identification number (MRIN) that your genealogy database program automatically generates.  Karen Clifford, AG explains the MRIN method in her free tutorial, “Organize Your Paper Files” and she shows you how to do it in several different genealogy database programs.  You could easily modify this system to include your digital files by having digital file folders labeled with the MRINs and then file the individual documents inside.  Using RINs is very similar except each document is labeled with the individual’s RIN instead of grouping everything by married couple.  If I used one of these systems it would definitely be the RINs because then you don’t get confused with multiple marriages and having the children’s stuff in their parent’s folders until they get married and then you transfer them to their own MRIN.  That is way too confusing for me. 

Here is a little snippet of my list of RINs in Legacy:

Created using Legacy Family Tree

And here is a another snippet showing the list of my MRINs:

MRINCreated using Legacy Family Tree

Another popular method is to separate your documents by type (typically in binders) and then the documents within are numbered sequentially.  For example, you would have a binder for birth records.  You would number the documents Birth 00001, Birth 00002, Birth 00003, Birth 00004 etc.  You would also have a binder for death records and those documents would be labeled Death 00001, Death 00002, Death 00003, Death 00004 etc.  You can use whatever categories make sense to you. 

If you use this system (or any other type of numbering system) your genealogy database program will help you.  They all have a place for you to record a file ID number so that you can associate your source citation to a specific location in your filing system, paper or digital.  This next graphic shows you the File ID section of the citation detail screen. [Note:  If you are using RIN or MRIN numbers you wouldn’t need to use the File ID feature of your database program because the RIN or MRIN itself immediately tells you who the document is associated with].

NumberingCreated using Legacy Family Tree


The second type of numbering system has nothing to do with how you file your documents but rather it is one that you use in reports to identify how the persons in the report fit into the family in relation to the anchor person.  Again, there are many different systems out there.  The two most commonly used systems in publications are Register Style and Modified Register or NGSQ Style.  You can read more about these two systems in my Numbering Styles blog post from January. 

[NOTE:  In the below screen shots for the report numbering systems the footnote numbers and sources were removed so that you could see more of the actual numbering system]

Here is a screen shot of the Modified Register (NGSQ):

RegCreated using Legacy Family Tree

There are a couple of other systems that I will also mention.  The Ahnentafel (also known as the Sosa-Stradonitz) numbering system is the one that people are most familiar with.  This is the numbering system you will see on pedigree charts.  The anchor person is #1.  His/her father is #2 and his/her mother is #3.  A person’s father will be double his/her number and a person’s mother will be double plus 1.  For example, if  you are looking at #6 on a chart that person’s father will be #12 and their mother will be #13.  Here is a little piece of my pedigree chart.  My dad happens to be the anchor on this one. 

PedCreated using Legacy Family Tree

My dad (Tom) is #1.  Tom’s mother (Leora) would be twice his number plus 1 so she is #3.  Leora’s father (Walter) would be twice her number so he is #6. Walter’s mother (Francis) would be twice his number plus 1 so she is #13.  This system only works for direct lines.

Another interesting one is the Henry System. [The d’Aboville, Meurgey de Tupigny  and de Villiers/Pama systems are refinements of the Henry System.  I will let you look those up on your own].   In the Henry System the anchor person will be #1.  His children will be listed as 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 etc.  11’s children will be listed as 111, 112, 113 etc. and 12’s children will be 121, 122, 123 etc.  111’s children will be listed as 1111, 1112, 1113 etc. and 121s children will be 1211, 1212, 1213, etc.  It is kind of fun.  If a person had more than nine children then the 10th child will be X, the 11th child will be A, the 12th child will be B, etc.  I don’t use Henry numbers but Legacy Family Tree will generate them so I can give you a screen shot.  Look at these crazy numbers!

HenryCreated using Legacy Family Tree

There are more systems than I have listed.  I just wanted to show you some of the more common ones.  Don’t confuse numbering systems meant to help you organize your paper and digital files with the numbering systems used in reports to show the relationship of everyone in the report to the anchor person.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Michele,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!