By Judy Kellar Fox, CG®

The Walker family introduced us to the basic numbering system of a descending genealogy in the last post. The family of William and Margaret (Lauderdale) Walker also offers examples that require more complex numbering.

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 lowercase roman numeral (i, ii, iii . . .).

Parenthetical summaries of descent outline 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).

Margaret Lauderdale Walker gave birth to two children after William2 Walker’s death. She gave them both the surname Walker, so although neither had William2 Walker’s DNA, they both belong to the Walker social family by virtue of their surname. Margaret raised them as a single mother, treating William, at least by name, as their (posthumous) father. 

Generation One

William and Margaret’s biological children

Each of the two new children, below, is given an individual number following William Walker’s children. Neither child has a birth-order number because neither belongs to the William Walker–Margaret Lauderdale biological family.[1] Each has a generation number of one (1), because each is the first of a new genetic line that carries the Walker surname.[2] 

The children born after William’s death that Margaret treated as if they were his children. Both have an individual number in the genealogy. Neither has a birth-order number. Both have a generation number of 1 as the first of a new line of Walkers.

Technically Margaret Ann1 and Edward1 Walker were neither stepchildren of nor adopted by William2 Walker. His mother simply treated them as if they were William’s children. They retained the Walker surname and the continuity of the social family, even though their connection to the Walkers was only through William’s widow Margaret, who was not a Walker descendant at all. [3]

This example shows how the principles of this genealogical numbering system can be used to cover examples that are slightly different from those in Numbering Your Genealogy.

Generation Two of this Walker family offers more numbering challenges. Next time we’ll look at how Thomas Watt Walker adopted his wife’s son, and Edward fathered children by two successive wives.

Questions so far?


[1] Numbering Your Genealogy, 18, bullet three.

[2] Numbering Your Genealogy, 18, bullet five.

[3] Numbering Your Genealogy, 18, bullet 7. The idea of a “posthumous” son follows the idea of informal adoption, as in 18, last paragraph, and 24, “Adoption—Child of a Spouse.”