Modern Software Experience

2010-04-23

ancestor table

Ahnentafel

Ahnentafel is a German word that has become part of the international genealogical lexicon. The literal translation of the German word ahnentafel is ancestor table; an ahnentafel is a table of ancestors. The more common English terminology for ahnentafel is pedigree table.

ancestor table

An ahnentafel shows ancestors in table format, like this.

Five Generation Ahnentafel
 
ProbandFathergrandfather
(father’s father)
great grandfatherg-g grandfather
g-g grandmother
great grandmotherg-g grandfather
g-g grandmother
grandmother
(father’s mother)
great grandfatherg-g grandfather
g-g grandmother
great grandmotherg-g grandfather
g-g grandmother
Mothergrandfather
(mother’s father)
great grandfatherg-g grandfather
g-g grandmother
great grandmotherg-g grandfather
g-g grandmother
grandmother
(mother’s mother)
great grandfatherg-g grandfather
g-g grandmother
great grandmotherg-g grandfather
g-g grandmother

The oldest known ahnentafel is a table listing the ancestor of King Henry III of France, in Michaël Eytzinger’s Thesaurus principum hac aetate in Europa viventium, published in 1590.

Eytzinger's First Ahnentafel

A modern minimal rendition of the same ahnentafel is below.

Five Generation Ahnentafel for
Henric III, King of France
 
1. Henric III2. Henric II4. Francisc8. Carolu16. Joannes
17. Margareta
9. Iudouica18. Philippus
19. Margareta
5. Claudia 10. Ludeuici20. Carolus
21. Maria
11. Anna22. Franciscus
23. Margareta
3. Catharina6. Laurenti 12. Petrus24. Lauretius
25. Clarixa
13. Alphonsina26. N
27. N
7. Magdalena 14. Joannes28. Berijandus
29. Ludouica
15. Joanna30. Johannes
31. N

This minimal rendition presents just the facts. Eytzinger’s ahnentafel contains additional text such as pater and mater (father and mother), that does not add any information that is not already apparent from the table itself.
The numbers in front of each name are not necessary either; the table is perfectly clear without these numbers. The particular numbering system Eytzinger uses is discussed in Ahnen numbering.

Eytzinger opted for a table that shows the youngest generation on the left and the oldest generation on the right. This arrangement is is convenient, but you may also encounter ahnentafel with the youngest generation on the bottom and the oldest along the top.

Ahnentafel properties

textual

Ahnentafel is a presentation format. It is a textual pedigree table, not a graphical pedigree chart. Lacking genealogy software, an ahnentafel is easier to create in a spreadsheet then in a word processor.

generations

An ahnentafel is a table of known ancestors, but it need not be a complete table of all known ancestors. It is common to list all known ancestors up to a fixed number of generations ago.
Ahnentafel rarely contain more than five or six generations, even when many more generations are known.

ancestors

An Ahnentafel is an ancestor table; a proper Ahnentafel contains nothing but ancestors. Many individuals in the table have other partners and more children, but these are not shown.

table

An anhnentafel is an ancestor table, not an ancestor list. An ahnentafel presents ancestors in a table format. Both the height and width of that table increase with each generation added, and that makes it impractical to use ahnentafel for anything but a small number of generations.

vital data

An ahnentafel will often include nothing but names, simply because the boxes for early generations do not allow much room for additional information. Ahnentafels that do include additional information will typically include only the most vital data, such as the birth date and place, or just the lifespan indicated by the birth year and death year.

general

An ahnentafel is a report type, but a limited one. It merely shows a small number of ancestral generations. An ahnentafel shows nothing but ancestors and provides little information on each individual in the table.
An ahnentafel provides a quick overview of the most immediate ancestors, which can be helpful as part of a larger more extensive report.

confusion

not a numbering system

It is worth stressing that an ahnentafel is an ancestry table, as quite a few authors mistakenly treat ahnentafel as a synonym or shorthand for ahnentafel numbering. That is wrong.
Ahnentafel numbering is a numbering system, ahnentafel is not. An ahnentafel isn’t a numbering system, but a genealogical presentation format.

not a list

An Ahnentafel is an ancestor table - a table, not a list. Many genealogical applications support the printing of an ancestor list. Such a list will often use Ahnentafel numbering, but use of that numbering system does not change that list into an table. Such an ancestor list is not an ahnentafel, but an ahnenlist.

acknowledgements

Picture of the first ahnentafel in Eytzinger’s Thesaurus principum provided by Wikimedia Commons.

links