"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, 1 March 2012

On my shiny new index

I have now finished indexing my entire direct line (apart from one branch which goes back considerably further than I have taken it, but I didn’t do this research myself, so until I can reliably verify the info, I’ve chosen to hold it back.) I can hardly contain my excitement (I am a huge geek), so I thought I’d share with you some of the exciting things it can do, and some of the info I can quickly generate using it.
My spreadsheet can be sorted and filtered on a variety of fields. For example, I can choose to just see my maternal or paternal lines, or just see men or women. I can also sort it alphabetically by surname or forename – or just choose to see people with a certain name, and by date on birth, marriage and death.
Based on this, I can tell you the oldest birthdate in my line is 1753, and the oldest marriage is 1803. The first surname is Allott, the last surname is Woffenden. The most common forenames are John for men and Mary/Mary Ann for women. Unsurprisingly, my own surname has the most occurrences.
It’s also given me a great idea of where my blanks are, and reassured me that despite five years spent on my ancestors, there’s still an awful lot to discover, particularly on my rather bare Welsh branches! (Happy St David’s Day to them!)
I can easily find an individual’s parents, spouse and child, despite the fact that they don’t all appear consecutively. The index works on a generation by generation basis, starting with me and my brother, then my parents, then my grandparents, great grandparents and so on. So, the first few entries looks like this:
01 Me
02 My brother
03 Father
04 Mother
05 Paternal grandfather
06 Paternal grandmother
07 Maternal grandfather
08 Maternal grandmother
09 Paternal grandfather’s father
10 Paternal grandfather’s mother
11 Paternal grandmother’s father
12 Paternal grandmother’s mother
13 Maternal grandfather’s father
14 Maternal grandfather’s mother
15 Maternal grandmother’s father
16 Maternal grandmother’s mother
17 Paternal grandfather’s father’s father (...)

The great thing about this system, I figured out, is that it gives a mathematical formula for figuring out relationships (except for me!!)
The formula goes as follows:
Mother = N x 2
Father = (N x 2) – 1
Child (of mother) = N / 2
Child (of father) = (N + 1) / 2
Male spouse =  N – 1
Female spouse = N + 1
I imagine there’s one for grandparents as well, but I haven’t got that far yet!
The point is that I can generate the reference number for any new ancestor without having to fill in the entire pattern easily. So when I’d done as far as my 5x GG I went back through my tree to check if I had any ‘confirmed’ ancestors any later than that. As it turned out I had three 6x GG and one 7x GG. Using the formula I was able to quickly create places for them and fill in the relevant numbers for all of their relationships, even if I didn’t have people for them yet.
This means that while I only have 260 entries in my index thus far (many of which are unknown blanks in any case), my highest numbered ancestor is 1013!
I’m very excited by my new tool. Still to do:
1. Work out how best to reference and incorporate non-direct-line family members. My gut is to reference from the direct line sibling or spouse initially, but then this creates trickiness when I start incorporating third-degree family members – their spouses, in laws and children.
2. Put together my individual’s record template
3. Index and create a record template for census households.
4. Create surname variations lists
Plenty to keep me busy then!

L x


  1. Hi,

    It sounds complicated! Have you tried out any of the many genealogy software pacakages available? I use The Master Genealogist, there are others that are completely free eg Roots Magic Essentials, Legacy.

    1. I do have some freebie software, but I've never actually set it up to use. For one thing, my laptop has just died on me, in which cse everything would have been lost. Plus this way I can carry it around on a memory stick and move it from computer to computer (I like to work on it in my lunch hour at work sometimes). It is rather complex, but I'm quite enjoying the challenge actually!

    2. Good Luck!
      If it all gets too much, be aware that there are mobile phone apps to which you can download your data for portability, some will allow you to update on the go (see my post on Android genealogy apps).
      All the packages have back-up options so you can still back up to the memory stick to avoid data loss.
      Another good freebie is Personal Ancestral File, which I used for years before upgrading to TMG.

  2. Hi! I used the numbering system you're using to be very useful. I went back to just over 100 and found it to be really useful, but my list was in Word and the formatting went insane! It was interesting to see the surnames I knew and seeing huge gaps in my tree that need more research.

    I began constructing a spreadsheet but didn't get very far so I would be interesting in perhaps seeing a screenshot of your spreadsheet to see just how you constructed it (Excel is the most ridiculously useful program!).


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