Numbering Systems in Genealogy

by Richard A. Pence

The Record System or Modified Register System

Copyright 1995 by Richard A. Pence - Posted with Permission

This system varies from the Register System in that each individual is given a number regardless of whether the line is subsequently carried on. A plus mark prior to the number is used to indicate if the line is later carried on. This is the system used by the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

Record System Example

                           Descendants of Henry Pence 

1. Henry Pence, born about 1740 probably Germany; died 1824 
Champaign County, OH; married c1765 Mary Magdaline Blimly. He was 
granted 474 acres on the Hawksbill Creek in Frederick County 
[later Shenandoah County, now Page County] on 30 March 1770. 
Moved to Mad River Township, Champaign County in 1805. All of the 
following children were likely born on the Hawksbill Creek near 
Stanley, VA, now Page County. It was Frederick County until 1772 
and then became Shenandoah County and was so for most of the time 
these Pences were there. Page County was created in 1832. 

   2.     i George born 16 August 1766 Frederick County, VA; married Mary Mauck 
            [daughter Daniel] 9 November 1790 Shenandoah County; died 1810 
            Shenandoah County.  
  + 3.    ii Jacob. 
 + 4.   iii Henry.  
 + 5.    iv Abraham. 
   6.     v Magdaline, born 31 January 1771 Shenandoah County VA; possibly dead 
            by father's will 1820; no other information.  
   7.    vi Susannah, born 4 July 1772 Shenandoah County, VA; married (1) 
            Benjamin Maggert 6 May 1794 Shenandoah County, (2) Thomas Jenkins; 
            died 21 May 1853 Champaign County, OH.  
 + 8.   vii John.  
   9.  viii Barbara, born 2 November 1775 Shenandoah County, VA; married (1) 
            _____ Rosenberger, (2) John Stewart 9 October 1806 Champaign County, 
            OH; died before 1820.  
 +10.    ix David. 
 +11.     x Joseph.  
 +12.    xi Samuel. 
  13.   xii Anna, born 10 October 1781 Shenandoah County, VA; married John 
            Norman [Newman] 11 February 1800 Shenandoah County; died after 1848 
            probably Montgomery County, IN.  +14.  xiii Isaac.  
  15.   xiv Elizabeth, born 22 June 1786 Shenandoah County, VA; married John 
            Steinberger [son John]; died 14 April 1854 Champaign County, OH.  
 +16.    xv Benjamin.  
  17.   xvi Mary, born 9 June 1789 Shenandoah County, VA; married William Runkle 
            in Champaign County, OH; went to IL. 
 +18.  xvii Reuben.  

                               Second Generation 

3. Jacob Pence (Henry-1), born 15 September 1767 probably 
Frederick County, VA; died 12 June 1828 Champaign County, OH; 
married Maria (Mary) Coffman 7 June 1802 Shenandoah County. 
Children [apparently several of the nine credited to them died 

  19.     i Katherine, died before 1820 OH; married Michael Kite c1819 OH. 
  20.    ii Elizabeth (Lydia), born 1804 Shenandoah County, VA; died 12 March 
            1834 Champaign County, OH; married David Steinberger 28 January 1822 
            Bartholomew County, IN.  
  21.   iii Anna, born 1807 Shenandoah County, VA; died after 1881 Clark County, 
            OH; married (1) Edward Wallis 1 January 1824 Champaign County, OH, 
            (2) Gabriel Albin 12 June 1846 Clark County.  
  22.    iv Julia, born 11 April 1809 Champaign County, OH; died 3 May 1816 
            Champaign County.  
  23.     v Lucinda, born 1810 Champaign County, OH; died - February 1860 
           Champaign County; married Runyon L. Northcutt 4 March 1830 Champaign 
 +24.    vi Jacob.  

4. Henry Pence (Henry-1), born 4 September 1768 Frederick County, 
VA; died 11 August 1844 Champaign County, OH; married (1) 
Elizabeth Koontz 2 January 1788 Shenandoah County, (2) Eve Snider 
5 July 1803 Shenandoah County.  

                *** Descendants of Numbers 4 through 17 here *** 

18. Reuben Pence (Henry-1), born 28 June 1791 Shenandoah County, 
VA; died 1 October 1840 Miami County, OH; married Anne Cowick 27 
August 1811 Champaign County, OH; to Miami County in 1821. 

 101.    i Ocey, born 16 February 1812 Champaign County, OH; died 9 June 1844 
           Miami County, OH; married Jabez Lucas 6 October 1827 Shelby County, 
 102.   ii Phoebe, born 25 May 1814 Champaign County, OH; died 21 January 1843 
 103.  iii Mary, born 23 January 1816 Champaign County, OH; died 18 June 1837. 
 104.   iv Anna Helen, born 27 September 1818 Champaign County, OH; died 9 
           October 1834.  
 105.    v Rhoda Jane, born 28 June 1819 Champaign County, OH; married Thomas 
           McPherson 21 February 1847 Miami County, OH.  
 106.   vi William Lossen, born 7 April 1821 Champaign County, OH; died 3 March 
           1882 Miami County, OH; married (1) Harriet Rudy 11 May 1848 Miami 
           County, (2) Barbara Rudy 9 October 1851 Miami County. Six children.  

                                Third Generation 

24. Jacob Pence (Jacob-2, Henry-1), born 10 October 1812 
Champaign County, OH; died 3 April 1898 Champaign County; married 
Sarah Dugan 20 September 1833 Clark County, OH. [Eleven children] 

             ***** Other members of the third generation here 

106. William Lossen Pence (Reuben-2, Henry-1), born 7 April 1821 
Champaign County, OH; died 3 March 1882 Miami County, OH; married 
(1) Harriet Rudy 11 May 1848 Miami County, (2) Barbara Rudy 9 
October 1851 Miami County. [Six children] 

Advantages/Disadvantages of the Register/Record Systems

The main advantages of these two are familiarity and acceptance. As one letter received by the NGS/CIG DIGEST pointed out: "Genealogy has been around, as we all know, far longer than computers. For computer users to try and tell genealogists how to present their work is a case of the tail wagging the dog. This is not to suggest computer methods should not be used, but rather that they must result in a product acceptable to genealogists. Unfortunately, none of the numerous suggestions I have so far seen accepts that conclusion." This writer went on to suggest that printed genealogies must be "in the Register form or risk denigration."

A major disadvantage - at least in the eyes of many - is the relative complexity of the system. A particular fault (more prominent in the Register System than the Record System) is that no "room" is left for newly discovered descendants. As one DIGEST reader put it, "The Register system is a strong deterrent to anyone who has additions or corrections to make to previously published work. Suppose that my great-grandfather wrote a family history and now I would like to extend some lines that he had lost touch with or simply ignored. Why can't I just write an addition to his work with a numbering system that simply hooks onto the 'dead ends' of his?"

As for using these systems for computer record-keeping, George Ely Russell, former editor of the NGS Quarterly, points out: "This type of numbering system 'works' only with final published genealogies. For obvious reasons it can not be applied to works-in-progress, data management projects in which children are being added to the database as research progresses. You should distinguish between genealogies being prepared for publication (in which a word-processing program works best, as you note in your article), and genealogies being compiled (i.e., the data-collection phase). Most of the genealogy software programs now on the market provide for automatic assignment of a unique code number to each individual and for linking parents to children and husbands to wives. A 'logical system' for assigning these code numbers seems unnecessary. The computer doesn't care what the number is, as long as it is unique to one individual. And the so-called 'Register system' of numbering should not be applied, was never intended for data management."

A word of caution and advice: If you are going to publish computer-stored material in the Register or Record format, DON'T begin to add the numbers until you are absolutely ready to go to press. One simple addition early on can throw all your previous numbers out the window, cause considerable confusion and open the way to errors. Another suggestion might be to print out your records in the order you will be adding the record numbers and pencil in the numbers. Experience has taught me that adding them on a computer monitor requires constant backtracking to recheck which number you are on.

This page is, created by Mike St. Clair from material written and © Copyright by Richard Pence - Posted Here with Permission. The information is from file: numbers3.txt - Dated: 23 January 1994. You may direct comments on the pages contents to: Send comments on the format of this document to:

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