Ahnentafel Charts

I use these charts frequently here on the site as a lovely and compact way of sharing a line of ancestry for certain people. It’s easier to manage than a drawn out pedigree chart that graphically links parents and children or a full family group sheeet. So if you’re seeing these ahnentafel charts around, you’ll want to make sure you understand them.

These charts are great to hold dozens of generations in a simple numbered list. It only holds direct ancestors for one specific person. The term “ahnentafel” is German for “ancestor table” if the name intrigued you.

Since a true tree ends up branching in a number of directions after a few generations, you need to take note of the numbers in an ahnentafel chart. That’s the key to understanding them.

Here is a basic ahnentafel chart, showing several generations of your ancestors with you as the base:

  1. you
  2. your father
  3. your mother
  4. father’s father (your grandfather)
  5. father’s mother (your grandmother)
  6. mother’s father (your grandfather)
  7. mother’s mother (your grandmother)
  8. great-grandfather
  9. great-grandmother
  10. great-grandfather
  11. great-grandmother
  12. great-grandfather
  13. great-grandmother
  14. great-grandfather
  15. great-grandmother
  16. great-great-grandfather
  17. great-great-grandmother
  18. great-great-grandfather
  19. great-great-grandfather

To explain the details of the numbering (it’s not just keeping them in order), here is another sample with actual names in it. This is my mom’s chart.

  1. Darlene Furlong
  2. Gordon Furlong
  3. Fanny Rumford
  4. William Furlong
  5. Mary Mills
  6. Percy Rumford
  7. Fanny Bennett
  8. Peter Furlong
  9. Ellen
  10. Thomas Mills
  11. Caroline
  12. James M Rumford
  13. Elizabeth Birch
  14. George H Bennett
  15. Fanny Cope Church
  16. Peter Furlong
  17. Elizabeth White
  18. Roland Henderson
  19. Margaret

Now you need to understand the the way the numbers work. A small chart like this is easy to follow because the names make it clear who is related to who. After a few hundred entries, you are going to lose track. Trust me. Here is the pattern:

Any person’s father is twice their own number, and their own mother is twice plus 1. So for my mother’s chart, Percy Rumford’s father is James Rumford and his mother is Elizabeth Birch. Percy’s number of 6 quickly leads you to numbers 12 and 13. And you can go down the chart the same way. You can find any person’s child by dividing by 2. So Thomas Mills’ child is Mary Mills.

On a similar note, when making up an Ahnentafel chart, you can’t just number everyone in order. When people are missing, you still need to use the proper numbers in order for the scheme to work. So in my case, even if Thomas Mills was missing, Caroline would still have to be 11 rather than 10.