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Once you have compiled a lot of information about your ancestry, you have a strong desire to display the data in some organised form and show it to your family. To show one's family tree, one must know the different types of genealogies.

Types of genealogies

There are several ways to present a genealogy

All ancestors and / or all descendants of a person should be included.

  • Agnatic: Only the paternal (Males) line of an individual is taken into account.
  • Cognatic: Only the line for women is taken into account.

A genealogy can be ascending or descending. Ascending genealogy: ascending genealogy is the easiest and the most popular. It identifies all the ancestors of an individual. (their parents, grands-parents, etc.) Descending genealogy: descending genealogy focuses on identifying all the descendents of an individual. (their children, grand-children, etc.)

Ascending Genealogy

In ascending genealogy, it is generally where an individual is researching his ancestors. This is the most current method of presentation.The goal of ascending genealogy is to better understand one's origins without a preferred status over another. It may be agnatic or cognatic.






Descending Genealogy

In descending genealogy, you start from your ancestor or rather a couple of ancestors, and research to findl their descendants. It may be agnatic, especially when one wants to ensure that all current holders of the surname are related, or it can also be cognatic.

Numbering Systems in Genealogy
In ascending genealogy, you start with yourself. Theoretically, the number of your forefathers doubles in every generation; of which a considerable number of individuals carry the same name and the same forename(s) on several generations.
Forefathers Theoretical

The branch "Father corresponds to the father of the individual "1 " while the branch "Mother" is that of his/her mother. This graphic presentation is suitable in general for small family trees not exceeding 5 or 6 generations. Some genealogy software allow to draw this type of illustration on a quasi limitless number of generations.

Graphic illustration

Graphic Illustration of a tree of ancestry


There are several numbering methods that can be classified into two groups. The main ones are listed below:

1. French-speaking Numbering systems

  • The Sosa-stradonitz ascending genealogy numbering system(referred to as Sosa);
  • The Aboville descending genealogy numbering system;
  • The Pelissier numbering system (Using letters);
  • The numbering system of Meurgey Tupigny;
  • The MCS descending genealogy numbering system;
  • The French National Numbering (INSEE, RN, ...);

2- English-speaking Numbering Systems

  • The Henry descending genealogy numbering system
  • The Register System
  • The Villiers/Pama system
Consanguinity and Inbreeding

Relationships between siblings

               Between Children



Common father and mother Full brother Full sister
Common father Inbred brother Inbred sister
Common mother Uterine brother Uterine sister
Other Relationships
Family relationship Relationship meaning
Uncles and aunts Father and mother brothers and sisters
Great-uncles et Great aunts Grandparents brothers and sisters
Great-Grand uncles et Great-grand aunts Great-grandparents brothers and sisters
Uncles and aunts ‘à la mode de Bretagne’ Parents first cousins
Nephews and nieces Brothers and sisters children
Grand-nephews and grand-nieces Brothers and sisters grandchildren
Neveux et nièces « à la mode de Bretagne » First cousins children
First cousins Children of uncles or aunts
Cousins ‘issus de germain’ Children of first cousins


Kinship and Inbreeding


When individuals have a common ancestor, they say they have a natural relationship. Civil relationship is acquired by affinity or through civil marriage. Another form of "parentship" is the spiritual relationship between a godfather and his godson. A legal "parentship" also exists between a mother and her adopted child.

Lines of Kinship

The succession of generations in a family is called the line. A line of direct relationship means that individual members were born from each other. Example: father, son, grand-son. The collateral line of relationship is when it concerns the brothers, sisters, uncles, nieces, cousins, etc.

The Degrees of Kinship and the Canon Law of the Catholic Church

Consanguineous marriages were forbidden by the Catholic Church, that is, between spouses who have a common ancestor, to the sixth degree. The intermarriage of degree less than five were declared invalid if inbreeding was discovered after the celebration of religious marriage. Therefore, it is possible to find the marriage of same spouses registered 2 times a few months apart.

Principle of Degrees of Kinship and the Canon Law of the Catholic Church

First degree: between brothers and sisters (Sosa 2 and Sosa 3)Second degree: first cousins (Sosa 4 and Sosa 6 - Sosa 5 and Sosa 7)Third degree: between second cousins (Sosa 8, 10,12 and 1 4 - Sosa 9,11,13 and Sosa 15) Note that there is a relationship of the third to the second level between Sosa 8 and Sosa 6.In some cases, for two people having a relationship to marry, an exemption regarding inbreeding must be obtained from the Catholic Church . An exemption from 3rd to 3rd degree can be allowed by a Bishop. Any request for a 2nd to 2nd degree (first cousins / uncle-niece) must be laid in Rome.These records of requests for exemptions are a wealth of information for the genealogist because they contain the affiliation of both spouses to their common ancestor.

The Degrees of Relationship and Civil Law

A generation is a degree of relationship in civil law:

  • Between a Father and son or daughter: 1 degree
  • Between a grandson and his grandfather: 2 degrees
  • Between a brother and sister, two degrees (parents and brother to sister to Parents
  • Between a nephew / niece and uncle / aunt: 3 degrees
  • Between two cousins: 4 degrees
Conducting interviews

Conducting interviews

One of the means of gathering genealogical information and documentation is by verbal interviews. But verbal evidence has its own limitations: Human memory, especially in the case of people of a certain age, is prone to temporary inability to remember, involuntary fact alteration, and inaccuracies. It is possible that, using correct interviewing techniques, the possibility of obtaining incorrect information is minimised
Interview goals

An interview must be properly designed to be effective.  The two main goals when conducting interviews are:To collect facts;To record anecdotal evidence and gather facts about the way of living of the family (Culture).
Interview timing

It is usual to conduct the interviews at the beginning of the genealogical research. A good practice is to visit the family member once at the start and a second time after a good amount of data has been gathered. Keep the first interview short. Get to the essential data: names, dates, places and information about the family origins.  Take care not to make the interviewee uncomfortable by putting questions about sensitive subjects.The second interview and other subsequent ones are to share acquired knowledge with the interviewee.  It serves to provoke new memories with data obtained from other sources.
Interview Planning

Prepare a basic list of questions in advance. In this way, you will ensure that all important avenues are covered. Nevertheless, let the informant embark on his or her memory meanders.Phrase your questions carefully avoiding leading questions. If the person has a doubt, he/she will tend to jump to conclusions towards the suggested direction. It is better to put open-ended questions that prevent Yes/No answers.Put questions about how the family thrived in the old days and particularly during tough times and how their lives were affected.Use oral history to add depth, genealogical and individual interest.An effective interview should record not only the basic facts but also the how, what and why.
Organise your interview notes

Record the source of the data.Example:Authors name  interview, date, with Informant name, address of Informant, age of informant, son/daughter of name informant’s parents.

Transcribing archived documents

Transcribing archived documents

In the genealogy domain, the word transcription means an exact copy. A good transcription of a an archived document not withstanding its substrate (parchment, epitaph, microfilm, register, etc) is when it is an exact copy of the document being transcribed. The transcriber should avoid at all cost the rearrangement of the detail in the document. Keep the original sequence. Do not sacrifice evidence to the facility of making the information more easily accessible. Removing or adding punctuation can destroy completely the meaning of a document. Keep abbreviations as such to let the reader know that alternatives exist. Use square brackets to render the abbreviated name: ( Jas [James?] Smith. Capitalisation and spelling and grammatical errors, etc. should be transcribed as in the original document. If any alteration is to be made, place it between square brackets.
Transcription documentation

Again it is essential to thoroughly document the transcription so that readers can trace back to the original.

Analysing Deeds and Wills

Analysing Deeds and Wills


A deed is a legal document (instrument) by which an asset owner (the grantor) transfers his or her right of ownership (title) in an asset to another party (the grantee). It will contain the name, given names, occupation, and other identity related information concerning the seller. But, it will also state whether the latter was married or not and to whom as well as the names of children minor or not. Deceased children are not referred to in deeds. To be enforceable:
A deed must state on its face that it is a deed,
Must accurately describe the property which is the subject matter of the deed,
Be validly signed (executed) in presence of the prescribed number of witnesses, and
Be handed over (delivered) to the grantee as a deed.
To properly analyse a deed, one should look for and copy all relevant data: Example: Apart from the Grantor, who else is mentioned in the deed? Does he have any connection with the individual being researched? Is the person an elected or appointed official? Is the person a clerical employee of a public office? Is the person a merchant, lawyer medical practitioner, priest or minister? Where did the person live? Note the names of the adjacent land owners. Their deeds will certainly mention your individual as their neighbour and you may find additional details about the researched individual. Does the document include other persons with the same surname? If there is a legal description of the land, find its whereabouts and identify important landmarks such as cemeteries, churches, etc. It can provide new research leads. If the individual being researched is selling property, how did he acquire it? Especially, when the property is land. Does the deed involve slave property? In which case, note names, ages, occupations, and other personal data on those slaves. Etc.


A Will is a document that you prepare which says what you want done with your property, possessions, belongings (called your "estate") after you die. It also names the person whom you want to carry out the terms of your will (called your "executor"). A Will is important because it simplifies matters upon your death and makes sure that your property passes to those people that you want to get it. Wills can be:

Handwritten or Holograph will

A holographic or olographic will is usually written in the testator's own hand writing and signed by him at the end of the document.

Typed will

A type will must be signed by two witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the will. Wills contain information about the testator: name, given names, age, occupation, etc. It will name an executor who will have the power to execute the desires of the testator and finally, the names and kinship of all the individuals who will be the beneficiaries. When analysing a will to find relevant information relating to the researched individual, it is necessary to bear in mind that a will is a less formal type of document allowing the testator to express his/her views relating to personality, preference ad even prejudice. The data contained in a will could be easily misinterpreted because of the informal envelope and the latitude left to the author. It is also possible possible to overlook important details for these same reasons. Is the will an "original" or a recorded copy? Is it on one or more loose sheet of papers?Is the testators signature or mark visible at the end of the document? Signature and marks ate vital in the sorting of identities.Is the text continuous from the bottom of each page to the top of the next one? If not, this would perhaps mean that the will is not an original or even that it has been altered  by beneficiaries wanting to hide information or who do not like the terms of the original document.If it is a recorded copy: Has the original been preserved? Copies may contain transcription errors.Does the will beging with an oath? Does the will mention infants or minor children?Who were the guardians of minor children? Have they been revoked at a later stage?Does the will mention that a heir only received a token? This could meen that the particular heir has received their share in advance. Check deeds, in the name of that particulat heir, for the last two decades.If a grandchild receives a special share of the estate, it could mean that he/she would probably be the son/daughter of a deceased son or an unmarried daughter.Check statements of kinship. Sometimes, sons/daughters-in-law mean step children. It may not be stressed that sisters /brothers are actually in-laws. The cousin and nephew statement may also be misinterpreted.Check for settlements mentioning  heirs, debts or properties in other regions or countries. It gives clues about the testastor  origins or previous places of residence.Does the will mention slaves? If so, were the slaves manumitted? Acts of manumittance provide clues about the wife and descendants especially kinship in the case of children of mixed blood.Slaves names could yield clues to other members of the family as slaves given names were  often the same as those of the master's family.

General rules

  • Check for recording of the document and if there was any contestation.
  • Research all witnesses  They could not be beneficiaries.
  • Do not assume that named wives are mothers of cited children.
  • You must prove that, in the case where cited name of  heirs are the same as that of the individual being researched, they are the same persons.
  • Wills and deeds provide leads for further research. Proof lies in vital records.

Nice and useful sites

histoire genealogie France genweb

Memoire des hommes

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