What the Heck is an Ahnentafel?

I remember first seeing the word Ahnentafel not long after my first dabbling into genealogy. I didn’t have the slightest idea what it meant, let alone how to pronounce it. Honestly, after 20 years of genealogy and family history work, I still don’t think I can say it right.

About five years after I started doing genealogy I started corresponding with a cousin of my maternal grandmother (yes, that’s 1st cousin twice removed) on the East coast.  He had a wealth of information that was all new to me and he was willing to share!!  A few weeks after exchanging letters (email was still ‘new’ and he was old enough to not use it) I got an 11 x 17 thick envelope in the mail. When I opened it up I didn’t know what to think.  It was about a 50 page list of names with staggered indentations and each name was preceded by a number.  There was no order or pattern that I could figure out…..at all.

We spoke by phone soon after that and I asked if he might be able to send info on a floppy disk (you remember those right? – the hard floppies, not the floppy floppies).  Well, I had the info the way he kept it, but he was nice enough to help me understand what I had. I learned that while it wasn’t a pretty, graphical pedigree chart, it was a better way to describe large family trees in the smallest amount of space.  The Free Genealogy Guide (where I stole the great title for this post) has a very good explanation of the numbering system.

What did I learn thanks to my new-found family?  I wasn’t going to need that 10′ x 10′ pedigree wall chart after all.


About Kevin

I'm a husband, father of 4, amateur genealogist, technophile, homeschooler, gardener, and boy scout leader.
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