©2019 Donald R. Snow - Last updated 2019-07-27

Don's Freeware Corner notes are printed in the UTAH VALLEY TECHNOLOGY AND GENEALOGY GROUP (UVTAGG) Newsletter TAGGology each month and are posted on his Class Notes Page where there may be corrections and updates.


This is a way to track descendants of someone, e.g. yourself or an ancestor. It provides a way for descendants to understand and feel part of a larger related group. The idea is to start with the first person, e.g. you, and give people the next number as they are born or marry into the family. The first person can be either a man or a woman as #1. Then their spouse is number #2, their first child is #3, the second child is #4, etc. As the children get older and marry, their spouses get the next #, and so on. As grandchildren are born, the numbering goes on chronologically. This can all be done by hand, but for any reasonably sized family, it is very laborious to do so. This article describes a method that I have developed to keep track of the numbers using a computer genealogy program.


As an example, in my own family, I'm Snow #01, my wife Diane was Snow #02, our first child, Don Jr, is Snow #03, our next child, Linda, is Snow #04, and so on. Our first child that was married is Linda, so her husband, Kevin, is Snow #09. Our first grandchild was Matthew who is Snow #12 and he was was our first grandchild married, so his wife, Julia, is Snow #43. Our first great grandchild was Alexis as Snow #44. The most recent family additions are spouses of grandchildren and births, so Ruth Elizabeth is Snow #78, Amelia is Snow #79, Ben is Snow #80, and Otto Cory is Snow #81. I use two digits, e.g. Snow #01, so my system can go all the way up to #99 without changing the spacing. If I had started with my grandfather, for example, I would probably have used three digits, e.g. #001. Below is an abbreviated table of our Snow #'s. 

Snow #01 SNOW, Donald Ray 1931-03-19 (birth)
Snow #02 MANWARING, Diane (SNOW)
1958-03-21 (marriage)
Snow #03 SNOW, Donald Ray 1960-06-22 (birth)
Snow #04 SNOW, Linda (W______)
1962-05-24 (birth)
. . . . .

Snow #09 W______, Kevin 1982-06-17 (marriage)
. . . . .

Snow #78 G_______, Ruth Elizabeth 2019-03-12 (birth)
Snow #79 S_______, Amelia (S________)
2019-04-23 (marriage)
Snow #80 T_______, Benjamin Leavitt 2019-05-18 (marriage)
Snow #81 G_______, Otto Cory 2019-07-24 (birth)



To use a computer genealogy program to generate and keep track of Surname Numbers, I use Ancestral Quest and two fields that can be shown and alphabetized in the List View.  Of course, any genealogy program that has two fields that can be shown as columns that you can alphabetize could be used. The fields I use in Ancestral Quest are the AFN field and the Custon ID number field.  The AFN field was used for the Ancestral File Numbers and is still useful, but not as much as before, even though the old Ancestral File is still available online and is helpful.  In the List View in Ancestral Quest to alphabetize these fields, you click on the title at the top of the column. I enter what I call the Family Entry Date in the AFN field. This date is the person's birth date for direct descendants and their marriage date for those marrying into the family.  I write these dates in the AFN field in International Date Format, YYYY-MM-DD. This form makes the dates sort chronologically
when the column is alphabetized. This is not the standard date format for genealogy and is not the format we use for writing dates in the United States, but is helpful to make the dates sort chronologically. This format is very useful in other places, e.g., if you name the files of transcribed letters with the dates in this format, they sort chronologically.

To set up the Surname Numbers in a database, I first select all descendants from the starting person, e.g. you. Be sure to include all spouses of descendants. Then, for each person in this collection, enter the Family Entry Date in the field you are using (AFN field, in my case), by writing it in International Date Format YYYY-MM-DD. Be sure all descendants and spouses are included in your collection, since, if you leave one out and enter it later, all the Surname Numbers after it will be changed. Now show this collection in the List View in Ancestral Quest, or whatever computer program you are using, and sort the list on the this column. This shows everyone in their Surname Number order, so you can go down the list and enter the Surname Numbers for each.  When a new person for your Surname Numbers is entered, you can see what Surname Number they get at the bottom of the List View for the columns.  This complete list for these columns can be printed or saved to a file to be emailed to everyone.  You could do all this with any table or spreadsheet, but you would need to copy all the descendant names and Family Entry Dates into it to start with and it would be harder to keep updated as new family members enter. 


The same Family Entry Date holds when starting from an ancestor further back or a descendant further down. That is, you just need to include or exclude the additional people, so you get the chronological collection you want, but the Family Entry Date remains the same, as long as it relates to an ancestor or descendant. The Surname #'s will change, of course, if you start with a different ancestor or descendant. If you change to start with a spouse's ancestor, you will need to change the spouse's Family Entry Date to their birth date, rather than their marriage date.

Genealogy programs could be written to include this Surname Numbering idea as an option to start from any person selected, but I haven't heard of any that include it yet.


For our Snow Family Reunion in the year we first developed our Snow #'s, my wife made badges with  names and Snow Numbers and ribbons on them.  She also wrote a poem with two lines about each person in their Snow order. It turned out to be an interesting time and many of the kids still know their Snow #'s. Every time there is a new addition by birth or marriage, we add in the new person with their Family Entry Date and they get the next Snow #. It has made the members of our family feel part of a larger group and I think that's been healthy for us all.