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This is a listing of genealogically related terms and definitions. For definitions specific to Geni please view the Glossary.


Genealogical charting takes many forms from graphical displays to simple lists. A variety of charts are used to record, verify and publish data collected for each individual in a family. Geni incorporates aspects of various genealogical charting systems in a new graphical interface, the geni tree, while providing easy access to commonly used lists.

Ahnentafel or Sosa-Stradonitz System

Ahnentafel is a German term meaning "Geneological table" and refers to one of several numbering systems used to record individuals on a pedigree chart or in list form. Each individual is numbered based on their relation to the descendant, with the descendant being No. 1. All male ancestors are numbered evenly while all female ancestors are numbered oddly; the father being twice that of the descendant of each generation and the mother being twice that of the descendant of each generation, plus one.


  1. Descendant
  2. Father
  3. Mother
  4. Paternal grandfather (father's father)
  5. Paternal grandmother (father's mother)
  6. Maternal grandfather (mother's father)
  7. Maternal grandmother (mother's mother)

Ancestral chart

A table depicting an individual and their direct ancestors usually including dates and locations of birth, marriage, and death. Also known as a pedigree chart.

Descendant chart

A table of a particular individual's descendants.

Family tree

A version of the pedigree chart including all ancestors.

Data collection

The process of obtaining information about every member of a population. The term is mostly used in connection with national "population and housing censuses" (to be taken every 10 years according to United Nations recommendations). The United States Census is mandated by the United States Constitution. The population is enumerated every 10 years and the results are used to allocate Congressional seats ("congressional apportionment"), electoral votes, and government program funding. The first US census was taken in 1790 and the next US census will take place in 2010. Most census reports have been scanned and are available for viewing online.
Mortality schedule 
When the U.S. census was taken for the years 1850 to 1900, the enumerators (census takers) were asked to collect information on all persons who had died during the 12 months preceding the census. This information is included on a mortality schedule. Census day was declared to be June 1st of the census year, therefore the enumerator was to ask questions about people who had died between June 1st of the previous year and May 31st of the current year. Information on these special schedules includes the name of the deceased, age, sex, color, birthplace, month of death, occupation, disease or cause of death and number of days ill. The 1880 mortality schedule also included questions about the place where the disease was contracted and the number of years the deceased had lived in the area.
Passenger lists 
Names and information of passengers who arrived by ship, often including their age, sex, occupation, place of origin.
Social Security Death Index 
An index of records containing names of deceased Social Security recipients whose relatives applied for Social Security Death Benefits after their passing which includes the individual's name and Soundex code, birth date, death date, Social Security number and state where it was issued.
A card index system prepared by the Works Progress Administration for the federal censuses. Names are arranged by letter and number codes according to the sounds of their consonants; thus, even if a name is misspelled or spelled in an unexpected way, it can often be located in the Soundex index.
Vital records 
Records of life events kept under governmental authority, including birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates.

Family history

Coat of arms 
A shield with certain distinctive symbols or emblems painted on it in definite fixed colors identifying one person and his direct descendants.
Direct line 
Descent from an ancestor through succeeding children.
One who leaves one country or region to settle in another.
One who settles in a country having emigrated from another.
An individual's or group's line of descent from an ancestor.
Can be a synonym for Lineage or a history of an individual showing their heritage and class distinction. The word pedigree is a corruption of the French "pied de gru" or crane's foot, because the typical lines and split lines of a pedigree chart (each split leading to different offspring of the one parent line) resemble the thin leg and foot of a crane.


Collateral ancestor 
An ancestor not in the direct line of ascent, but of the same ancestral family.
Given name 
Your first name. 'John' in 'John Smith'.
Maiden name 
A woman's surname before marriage.
Pronounced "Master" is a title that could only precede the names of gentlemen, clergymen, or government officials; identified in the records with the abbreviation "gent".
Mrs. or Miss (Mistress) 
A feminine equivalent of Mr., it did not denote marital status, but social position; a young girl coming from a higher class family would also be called "Mrs.", even though unmarried.
Patronymic name
A name formed by the addition of a prefix or suffix indicating sonship or other relationship to the name of one's father or paternal ancestors, examples - MacDonald (son of Donald) or Johnson (son of John).
Also known as the last name, or the family name. It is the name used to identify the members of a family. In most cultures it is customary for a woman to take her husband's surname when married. The children also usually keep their father's surname. Historically, naming conventions existed in some places, where the name given to one's children was sometimes dictated by a particular formula. It is important to recognize, however, that naming conventions were not used in all families and did not always follow the same formula. They are just a pattern of naming that was common in a particular area during a particular time.


Although different kinship terminologies are prevalent in different societies many familial relationships are expressed in similar terms. In genealogical terminology some terms may be combined (your spouse's aunt's niece).

A person from whom one is descended. For example, your ancestors include your father, your mother, your grandmother, her mother, her father, etc. Strictly, a direct blood ascendant. For example, your father and mother, grandfathers and grandmothers, etc. Uncles and cousins are not ancestors but are relatives. In cases of adoption, a person might consider the adoptive parents and grandparents ancestors.
Blood Relative 
Anyone you share a blood relative with.
A male sibling. A son of one's parents.
A son of daughter.
A cousin is an English kinship term to describe a relative that one shares a common grandparent or more distant ancestor with (and is not in said person's line of decent).
A female child.
A person of whom you are an ancestor. For example, your grandfather's descendants include you, your father, your uncle, your daughter, etc.
A male parent.
A child's child.
A parent's parent.
A person lawfully appointed to care for the person of a minor, invalid, incompetent and their interests, such as education, property management and investments.
A person who inherits or is entitled by law or by the terms of a will to inherit the estate of another; a person who succeeds or is in line to succeed to a hereditary rank, title, or office.
A male spouse. A man to whom one is married.
A person related by marriage or by another legal tie.
A female parent.
Son of one's brother or sister; also an illegitimate son of an eccleasiastic, a niece, or a male or female grandchild.
Daughter of one's brother or sister; sometimes, granddaughter; (pre-seventeenth century England) any descendant, male or female, and occasionally, any younger relative.
A person of whom you are a child. A father or a mother.
Synonym of Spouse. A wife or a husband, someone to whom you are married.
The earliest ancestor or forefather.
A parent or ancestor; the originator of a line; the earliest proven ancestor; the person from which all descendants originate.
a generation removed. For example, the child of your first cousin is your first cousin one generation removed (relation to you = "first cousin once removed")on the Geni site.
A person with whom one shares parents. For example, the daughter of your father's mother is his sibling.
A biological father or male ancestor.
A female sibling. A daughter of one's parents.
A male child.
A wife or a husband, someone to whom you are married.
A female spouse. A woman to whom one is married.

General genealogy

About or approximately, usually used in front of a date or year (c. 1560).
Gregorian calendar 
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian calendar (named after himself). This calendar was developed to make up for the deficiencies in the Julian calendar which caused it to depart from the natural solar cycle over time. To get back in sync with the solar cycle, the Gregorian calendar dropped 10 days from the month of October in 1582, and introduced Leap Years to keep this problem from recurring. The Gregorian calendar was not adopted by many protestant countries until much later. Great Britain (and colonies) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. Some countries, such as China, did not adopt the calendar until the 1900's.
Julian calendar 
The calendar named for Julius Caesar in official use from 45 B.C. to 1582 A.D. It was officially replaced by the Gregorian calendar in 1582, though many countries didn't adopt it until much later.
Six degrees of separation theory 
A social networking theory describing the total number of steps (or degrees) one is related by friendship to any other person. If someone is 1-step away from everyone he/she is friends with (not related to) and 2-steps away from each person who is known by one of the people he/she knows, then everyone is no more than 6-steps away from any one person in the world (assuming everyone has a minimum of 42 friends).The term "six degrees of separation" is often distorted to indicate that six generations is the maximum extent to which everyone in the world is related. This has been disproved in numerous genealogy circles, since six generations translates roughly to 250 years.
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