When searching for a genealogical numbering system for my personal genealogy I looked for something modern that could handle cousin/cousin relationships, a problem that crosses lines; multiple descendants of the same family immigrating together with some remaining behind; European roots; adoptions; step-children; multiple marriages; divorces; and perhaps surname changes.
I also wanted a descending genealogy rather than ascending, meaning that the first individual listed is the immigrating ancestor descending from that point down to the modern generation.
The National Genealogical Society Descending Genealogy numbering system was the best I found. This system easily handled my problem areas. However, there is no perfect system. There are always going to be exceptions to the rule. And even the NGS system makes it a bit rough in numbering siblings of immigrants left behind whose children immigrated later. It is doable but clumsy at best.
Let’s examine the NGS system together and look at the basics putting these in practice through examples.
Generation Numbers and Letters
The NGS system uses both generation numbers and letters to affix a location in the genealogical hierarchy. Your immigrating ancestor is typically generation 1, his children are generation 2, their children generation 3, etc. Your immigrating ancestor’s parents who lived and died in a foreign country are labeled generation A, their parents B, their parents C, etc. These numbers and letters are always italicized to differentiate them from source citation numbers.
This is straightforward. Where this system runs into a snag is when there are other immigrating ancestors that also came to America perhaps in succeeding generations. For example, when a child of your immigrant ancestor’s sibling chooses to also immigrate. What generation number do we give this child? There is a work-around for this type scenario, but it results in the renaming of your immigrating ancestor’s generational number. Sound confusing? It is. We’ll delve into these more advanced topics in part 2 of this article.
Now that you understand the basics behind the generational numbers and letters let’s see how this works in application.
Explanation of Above Example…
The heading “Generation One” is both italicized and centered above text.
Jacob is assigned individual number (1) in bold and not italicized. This is a reference number. Each individual named in your genealogy will be assigned a numerical number in chronological order by birth. Thus, the first child born to Jacob will be (2), second child (3) and so forth. This number too is in bold type but only in this first reference. In succeeding references this will not be bold-type.
The generational number (1) is affixed after the given name. In this case, because I know Jacob’s middle name the number is entered following both names, but before the surname.
Jacob’s father was Derk Jacobs Kruizinga so he gets the generational letter “A”. Note that in most instances only the first (and middle if known) names are given because the father shares the same surname as the child. But in this case, there is an exception to the rule. Jacob’s name morphed to the “enga” spelling once Stateside. Thus, we need to differentiate between that neo-spelling and the Dutch spelling. This is why the “Kruizinga” surname is given. And again, I list the surname for Jacob’s grandfather because that spelling too changed.
In the Netherlands the Dutch used a system of patronymics where the child was given the middle name of the father. Jacob’s middle name “Derk” references this custom. His father was Derk. This custom held on for the better part of the 19th century and gradually faded away in the 20th. Napoleon conquered the Netherlands in 1810 and placing his brother in authority it was forced upon the Dutch to choose a surname in 1811. Jacob Cornellis chose the surname “Kruize”.
So, all three surnames are given to draw attention to the name changes that took place.
Note the two names in bold type. The individual being described is in bold as well as all wives of that individual. Jacob was married three times. From the names of the brides you can see that they too were married previously. Gezina bears her surname Rotmans and the married name VanBraak. Jentje bears her birth name Wittink and her married names Witte and Bylsma.
Do we go into detail on how these wives died? Not here. We don’t even mention when they died. In the summary that follows the first paragraph we will mention what became of the wives if known. The 2nd paragraph (and more if needed) are the biographical component of the select individual. As written our first paragraph is now complete.
Why didn’t I add details of Gezina’s parents? Because at the time of this writing I don’t know it. This info could be added later.
Now we dive into the biographical section. This is where you put the “meat on the bones”. Give a narrative account of that individual’s life story in detail. Remember to cite your sources for each bit of information you record. This is essential so that future generations that pick up your work can find that very same information should they choose to.
The 4th of 7 children and only living son, Jacob Derks was born into a farmer’s family. His father did not own a farm but worked as a hired farmhand. It was difficult in that Dutch period to become a land owner and most worked in a system of serfdom. Shortly after his first marriage Jacob and his bride set sail for America via the England route: Liverpool to New York, aboard the Devonshire. Wife Janna was with child giving birth in November of 1857.
I could go on and on stating facts – and being certain to source all information carefully as I write it. I have not done so above because this is just a simple tutorial; however, I would place reference (or footnote) in similar superscript, not bold, not italicized, after the statement being made.
The final item to discuss is in the numbering of children for each marriage.
After the biography you start with all children (if any) for the first marriage. If none, there are none to name. You list ALL children – even those that died young. That is why I love the NGS numbering system because it covers the often-forgotten children who died in childbirth or young from childhood plights. Here they are named and remembered.
Let’s see how this appears.
Above is a sample how the child paragraphs will appear. Note the child names in all caps. I have also given their generation numbers direct after their first names (or second if middle names are known). In parentheses I have placed the anglicized names of both Jobtje and Grietje. This is how they were known in America. They did not go by their given Dutch names.
In reality all three of these children never married. But for reason of this example I have added a (+) before each child number. This plus indicates that a discussion will later be found for that individual with children listed, if any. I have not placed a (+) before Derk. This is because Derk was born and died 3 months later. There is no reason to carry him over to further discussion. I would simply state here his “vitals”. Born on… and Died on… with reason for his short life, if known.
For each child you briefly summarize any birth, marital, and death data even though you will later discuss that individual in greater detail. What if that individual married but never had any children? No matter. You still add a (+) and bring the individual forward discussing his/her life in detail. Certainly, there is more to be discussed.
The roman numerals after the individual numbers (i, ii, iii, etc) indicate birth number in order. Derk was born first so he is given the roman numeral (i). If there are subsequent marriages, you begin anew for each child section. Because Jacob remarried twice each child section will begin with the roman numeral (i). The 5th child born to Jacob, but first to his 2nd wife Gezina, would not be roman numeral (iv) but rather (i).
These are the basics of the NGS Quarterly Genealogical Numbering System.
In part 2 of this article I will be discussing how to deal with cousin marriages, step-children, and other immigrating ancestors – cousins of your ancestor – and how to record each.