Modern Software Experience

2010-08-11

ahnenlist & adoption

Ahnenlist

An Ahnenlist is a textual overview of ancestry. The individuals in an ahnenlist are usually numbered using ahnen numbering.

adoption

A limitation of the traditional ahnenlist using ahnen numbering is that it does not allow inclusion of both birth and adoptive parents. If you want to make a traditional ahnenlist, you have to make a choice; include either the birth parents or the adoptive parents.

In many cases, your genealogy software will make the choice for you, and most software will simply default to using birth parents - and that is wrong. When there is a choice of parents, the software should let the user make that choice.

choice

Assuming that your software allows you to make your own choice, you are faced with making that choice, and chances are that whatever you choose, someone is going to be unhappy with it, even when text of the ahnenlist makes it crystal clear which choice you made. The easiest way out of this dilemma is to sidestep the issue, either by creating two ahnenlists or by opting for some alternative report or diagram that allows inclusion of both birth and adoptive parents.

This article shows that the traditional ahnenlist and ahnen numbering are easily extended to support both birth and adoptive parents by introducing the Adapted Ahnenlist, an ahnenlist extended to support all parents.

extended ahnenlist

Extended Ahnenlist for John Smith

First Generation

1. John Smith. John Smith was adopted.

Second Generation

2A. John Miller.

3A. Francis Brown.

2B. David Smith.

3B. Elizabeth Williams.

The illustration shows a brief fictive ahnenlist. The information displayed has been kept to the absolute minimum, just some common names, so as not to distract from the discussion. The extended ahnenlist  above notes that John Smith was adopted and then includes both his birth and adoptive parents.

A & B convention

In this extended ahnenlist, both pair of parents have the same ahnen numbers, but the numbers are followed by different letters. His adoptive parents, John Miller and Francis Brown have been assigned the numbers 2A and 3A. His birth parents David Smith and Elizabeth Williams have been assigned the numbers 2B and 3B.

These are not just the two first letters of the alphabet, merely used to distinguish the two different pairs of parents from each other. These letters were chosen deliberately, to indicate the relationship of those parents to the child; the adoptive parents get an A for Adoption, and the birth parents get a B for Birth.

navigating an extended ahnenlist

Navigating an ahnenlist extended this way is hardly different from navigating a traditional ahnenlist. All records are still in the same order. You still get to the father by multiplying by two and to the child by dividing by 2. The only difference is that there are additional records, because it lists more than one pair of parents.

extending further

The above seems simple and practical enough, but what if you add another generation?  

Extended Ahnenlist for John Smith

First Generation

1. John Smith. John Smith was adopted.

Second Generation

2A. John Miller.

3A. Francis Brown.

2B. David Smith.

3B. Elizabeth Williams.

Third Generation

4A. Bruce Miller.

5A. Susan Wilson.

6A. Robert Brown.

7A. Margaret Anderson.

4B. Thomas Smith.

5B. Nancy Moore.

6B. Donald Williams.

7B. Barbara Johnson.

This illustration shows one way the numbering could look like if you extended the ahnenlist another generation for both the birth and adoptive parents. It illustrates the most basic numbering scheme; just keep the A and B for earlier generations to keep distinguishing the two ancestries from each other.

There is no need to tack on another A or B until you get to another adoption - but if you were to do so, you might end up with quite a few ancestries in a single ahnenlist, and that might lead to a rather large and complex ahnenlist that documents, among others, the ancestry of the adoptive parents of the birth parents of your adoptive parents. Although it is great to have such information in your database, it is not very practical to list all these ancestries in a single document.

Even if there is just one child with two pair of parents, documenting both ancestries in a single ahnenlist does not seem the right way to go. It seems better to keep each report focussed, and to create two separate ahnenlists, a birth ahnenlist that shows the birth ancestry, and an family ahnenlist that shows the family or families each child belonged to. I call it a family ahnenlist, because you trace a line back through the families that did the parenting. An adoptive ahnenlist would be an ahnenlist containing nothing but adoptive relationships.

just the parents

Few genealogists desire to document multiple ancestries in a single ahnenlist. Few genealogists desire to create two different ahnenlists because of a single adoption. Many would simply like to document the other parents - just them, not their entire ancestry - in a single ahnenlist.

That can be done like this:

Family Ahnenlist for John Smith

First Generation

1. John Smith. John Smith was adopted.

Second Generation

2. John Miller.

3. Francis Brown.

2B. David Smith.

3B. Elizabeth Williams.

Third Generation

4. Bruce Miller.

5. Susan Wilson.

6. Robert Brown.

7. Margaret Anderson.

Birth Ahnenlist for John Smith

First Generation

1. John Smith. John Smith was adopted.

Second Generation

2A. John Miller.

3A. Francis Brown.

2. David Smith.

3. Elizabeth Williams.

Third Generation

4. Thomas Smith.

5. Nancy Moore.

6. Donald Williams.

7. Barbara Johnson.

Note that in these those extended ahnenlists, both the family ahnenlist and the birth ahnenlist have a traditional ahnenlist as their basis. Neither is wildly different from a traditional ahnenlist, they just add a few extra records. All the records that would occur in a traditional ahnenlist are still there, and still have the same unadorned ahnen number as they would have in a traditional ahnenlist. Only the extra records, added to include the other parents, are adorned with either an A or a B to distinguish them from the rest.

The family ahnenlist shows birth parents directly after the adoptive parents, and the birth ahnenlist shows adoptive parents before the adoptive parents. That convention keeps both relationships in the same temporal order as the ahnenlist overall.

multiple adoptions

This simple approach easily handles multiple cases of adoption in a single ahnenlist. It can even handle multiple adoptions of the same child.
If a child was adopted multiple times, all adoptive parents can be listed in antichronological order. To uniquely identify the different adoptive parents, they can be numbered chronologically, starting at 1 (software developers will appreciate keeping number zero reserved for the birth parents).

Adapted Ahnenlist

Inspired by Modified Register, I call this the Adapted Ahnenlist. It is an ahnenlist adapted to the practical and emotional desire to list all parents.

links

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