Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun ~ Ancestral Name Number

Last week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings was something I had wanted to do since I saw Crista Cowan's post mentioned in #1 below. However, I was on vacation, so I'm late, but my mathematical mind was interested in doing this.

1)  Determine how complete your genealogy research is.  For background, read Crista Cowan's post Family History All Done? What’s Your Number?  For comparison purposes, keep the list to 10 generations with you as the first person.

2)  Create a table similar to Crista's second table, and fill it in however you can (you could create an Ahnentafel (Ancestor Name) list and count the number in each generation, or use some other method).  Tell us how you calculated the numbers.

3)  Show us your table, and calculate your "Ancestral Name Number" - what is your percentage of known names to possible names (1,023 for 10 generations).


I created an Ahnentafel report in Family Tree Maker and counted the names in each generation and came up with the following totals.

For ten generations (including me), my Ancestral Name Number (my percentage of known names to possible names) is 42%. I do think it's pretty cool that I can name all my third great grandparents.

I included names in each generation even if I didn't know the last name (or in one case a first name). For example, once you get back to the 17th or 18th century, sometimes all you get is "Susanna, wife of John Griswold" or perhaps "daughter of Benjamin Mathis, born in 1684" married Mr. Franklin.

I will also note that in many cases, I am relying on secondary, not primary, sources, but I try to evaluate them to determine if they are relatively reliable. (An online family tree is not reliable, but can be a "hint" to look for particular primary source records to confirm relationships.) One of my ongoing projects is to ensure I have accurate source citations to know where I found someone's name.

Interestingly, I have just a few more paternal ancestral names than maternal ancestral names. When I get back to the 9th and 10th generations, I find many of my dad's ancestors in Connecticut and Virginia. For my mother, I find ancestors in the 9th and 10th generations in Massachusetts and Connecticut. These states have pretty good records.

For some specifics, see a previous Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post that lists my sixteen second great-grandparents as well as noting each set of my thirty-two third great-grandparents.


  1. Amazing! At first I was tempted to be jealous of how successful you've been. But, then I remembered that's not the point. I believe the point is to help us have focus and remind us of where to spend our energies.

    1. This challenge made me realize how much I do have that I should be sharing on my blog.

      I also wanted to explain that I did include several wives for whom I don't have a surname, as well as noting that I've used secondary sources, which could have errors, so 42% may be pretty generous. I've seen several of these SNGF posts with percentages all over the place - the ancestral name number depends a lot on records being found where your ancestors were living.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Hi Elizabeth-- I'm back, at the same url. :-)

    That IS neat-- I still can't get past my father's paternal great-grandparents-- they were Russian Jews, and records probably don't even exist for them anymore...

  3. Oops-- meant my father's paternal grandparents.

    1. Karen, I did a quick check on my husband's ancestors, and being that three of his four grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Hungary and Romania, the percentage was miniscule. That makes this exercise not as fun for his family tree.

      Thanks for the comment and letting me know about your revived blog!

    2. Exactly-- Eastern European Jews didn't do a great job of keeping records in the first place-- probably on purpose, since they lived among people who generally despised them and realized that having records of the town's Jews handy wouldn't be a great idea. Many of those records that did exist were most likely destroyed during WWII. My grandfather's town, Krasnystaw, Poland (formerly part of the Russian Empire), was bombed badly and the synagogue there destroyed, so...