Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Ancestors beyond number

There are two crucial points in the development of a family historian. At the first, you decide that it would be much neater and more efficient if each individual in your database had an unique identifier that shows his or her relationship to each other person and so you set out to develop such a system.

The second crucial point comes when you realise that if this was an easy task, someone would have done it already and you begin to explore the history of genealogical numbering systems.

Can you tell that I have recently reached point two? The saving grace is that I now know that what appeared to be an enormous pile of waste paper on my desk is actually an array of reinvented wheels. They may not all be fully functional, but I can say that I have examined the major variants of both ascending and descending numbering systems.

It has been an interesting by-way to explore and has jogged my memory on some half-forgotten mathematics and data organisation principles. I have enjoyed the learning (which is a "good thing" in itself).

Is my database (and its parallel universe of documents) any easier to navigate as a result? Unfortunately not, but if I could find a way to link an atree (ascending) to a Henry (descending) perhaps…

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