Numbering 4: Adoptions and Children of Multiple Partners

Numbering 4: Adoptions and Children of Multiple Partners

2018-05-15T09:51:42+00:00April 20th, 2016|Education|2 Comments

By Judy Kellar Fox, CG®

The William Walker–Margaret Lauderdale family has challenged us across the past three posts with several numbering complexities.

  • In the first post we assigned people generation numbers according to whether they were born in the U.S. or abroad.
  • The second post demonstrated how to number children born to unknown fathers.
  • Numbering informal adoptions and children born to a descendant by more than one spouse followed in the third post.

This post wraps up discussion of adoption and multiple partners.

Remember that we are looking at three numbers that would be used in a descending genealogy:

  • Individual numbers, arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4 . . .);
  • Generation numbers, a superscript number in italic font (1, 2, A, B, a, b); and
  • Birth-order numbers, a lower case roman numeral (i, ii, iii . . .).

Parenthetical summaries of descent abbreviate each descendant’s ancestry. They appear after the descendant’s name in the first line of the biographical sketch, for example, “8.  Margaret Maitland2 Walker (Thomas Watta-1, WilliamA, ThomasB) was born . . .”

In all cases our authority on numbering is Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H. Wray, Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin, ed. Elizabeth Shown Mills, rev. ed. (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2008). 

In the third and succeeding generations all the Walker descendants are American-born, so all have numerical generation numbers. Pre-American generation numbers (letters) appear only in the parenthetical summaries of descent. Likewise the descriptions we have used for Albert’s informal adoption and Edward’s treatment as a son of deceased William.

Generation Three

(Selected biological and adoptive grandchildren)

Margaret Maitland2 Walker’s daughter by an unknown father appears in Generation Three, although she has already been treated with her adoptive grandparents in Generation Two. Daughter Dorothy’s individual number (12) is not repeated here. She receives birth-order-number one ( i ) as Margaret’s firstborn.[1] Birth-order numbering of Margaret’s children with Louis Fox also begins with one ( i ) to distinguish the fathers.

Dorothy’s individual number is not repeated. The fathers of Margaret’s children are distinguished by the birth-order numbers.

The informal adoption of Albert Walker and his social Walker ancestry now appear in his parenthetical summary of descent.  Notice that although his children are in the third generation from WilliamA, their generation number is 2, not 3, because of adoptive son Albert’s generation number of 1.

In Generation Three, some children take the generation number of 3, some 2, depending on the generational status of their fathers and grandfathers.

What unique numbering questions have you encountered in your family? How have you used Numbering Your Genealogy to answer them?

[1] Margaret2 is a direct descendant with multiple partners, similar to the multiple marriages discussed in Numbering Your Genealogy, 18, bullet 2. See also, for example, Numbering Your Genealogy, 22, no. 12, Myrtle4 Mercer, child ii, Mason Mercer.


  1. Annie Stratton April 20, 2016 at 10:23 am

    OK, I guess I am going to have to get the book. I confess that systems of numbering such as this one go right over my head. I am just not used to thinking of relationships in terms like this, and though it clearly is useful for conveying information to some folks, I don’t seem to be among them.

    But then, I have never really grasped the concept behind all the cousins whose nomenclature changes depending on where one is standing (it seems to be based on the old English formula for who gets the title next). My family seems to carry a family map in our heads, and know immediately where each person fits in, and can rattle off a list of names in case we need to let someone else know. I suppose that doesn’t work so well in a genealogical narrative, so I recognize the value of numbering. Just maybe not this one, for this back-woods, semi-tribal hybrid.

    Annie, daughter of Wilma and Bill, granddaughter of Iris and her first husband Oliver whose first name was also William (though “Grandpa” was always Jesse, Iris’s second husband). Sam is my father’s cousin through Oliver’s sister May, and that is why his wife Myrt is my aunt. (See how easy that is?) 😉

    • Judy Kellar Fox April 20, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Yes, you definitely have a challenging family to “map” with numbering. If we look closely, we all do, all of us “back-woods, semi-tribal hybrids.” Numbering Your Genealogy has a way to describe each relationship. It’s a pretty flexible system, but I don’t mean to suggest it comes without making a good effort! Yes, do get the book. And then study it with your family in mind. Good luck!

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