Loving Register style

isaacson christmas Register style would help clarify family groups among descendants of my grandmother (seated, center).

I simply love Register style as a way of presenting descendants of a particular ancestor. Chris Child’s recent post made me realize just how much I love it. It is such an elegant and efficient way of presenting genealogical information that I wish I had invented it.

isaacson chart_Page_2 Click on image to expand it.

In fact, it was NEHGS that came up with the system in 1870 as a way of presenting information in our quarterly journal, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register – which is why it’s known as Register style.

With Register style, you begin with an ancestor and call that person number 1. Often, in American family histories, person number 1 is the immigrant to America, but it doesn’t have to be. You give that person’s birth and death information and then marriage information.

Taking my immigrant grandmother as an example, I would write as follows:

  1. Sandra Eliina Matalamäki was born at Teuva, Finland, 19 August 1876 and died at Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio, 26 December 1960. She married at Nanty Glo, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, 4 February 1901, John Henry Isaacson, who was born Juho Heikki Iisakkinpoika Panttila at Teuva 26 April 1878 and died at Johnstown, Cambria County, 1 March 1919.

You then list children, in birth order, giving vital statistics. Each child is preceded by a lower-case roman numeral. Children who will later be treated in full – usually those with offspring – are also given identification numbers. Listing my grandparents’ eleven children, I would write:

Children of John Henry and Sandra (Matalamäki) Isaacson, all born at Nanty Glo:

2 i. Jennie Senja Isaacson, b. 19 Nov. 1901; d. Warren 24 Oct. 1975; m. 25 Oct. 1919 Jacob Gomsey.

3 ii. George Lambert Isaacson, b. 29 April 1904; d. Warren 10 Aug. 1984; m. 30 Sept. 1930 Mary Rajasilta.

4 iii. Ellen Sandra “Helen” Isaacson, b. 25 Feb. 1906; d. Warren 15 Oct. 1952; m. 10 May 1923 Theodore Rintala.

5 iv. Aili Regina “Rena” Isaacson, b. 3 Nov. 1907; d. Warren 6 Oct. 1991; m. 13 June 1931 Florian Edward Lenhart.

6 v. Ruben J. Isaacson, b. 19 June 1909; d. Cortland, Trumbull Co., 3 Dec. 1983; m. (1) 18 July 1936 Edith Davis; m. (2) 29 July 1956 Naomi (______) Lundy.

vi. Vera Helena Isaacson, b. and d. in 1910.

7 vii. Pearl Maria Isaacson, b. 28 Jan. 1912; d. Warren 28 May 1961; m. 13 Oct. 1933 George Samuel Rohrbach.

8 viii. Hilda Irene Isaacson, b. 3 April 1914; d. Warren 5 Nov. 1999; m. 22 June 1940 William Lampila.

9 ix. Onni Emil Isaacson, b. 19 March 1916; d. Germantown, Md., 10 Feb. 1993; m. 26 Dec. 1949 Ruth Wyandt.

10 x. Lillian Eliina Isaacson, b. 1 June 1917; d. Niles, Trumbull Co., 18 July 2003; m. 2 Sept. 1939 John Pietila.

xi. Urho Armas “Henry” Isaacson, b. 14 Aug. 1919; d. Howland, Trumbull Co., 25 Jan. 1938.

The next family group I would include in my family history, then, would be headed by Number 2, my aunt Jennie (Isaacson) Gomsey. I would treat her just like I treated my grandmother. In the list of her and Uncle Jake’s children, I would assign to the first one with offspring the Arabic number 11, the next in my identification-number sequence.

The Register style system, with its grouping and numbering systems, makes it easy to track a line through multiple generations and keeps family groups together. Patterns are easier to follow in this system than they are in the ahnentafel, which starts at or near the present and traces a direct line back into the past.

And what of any family stories I might have about my grandparents? Where would they go? There’s plenty of room for them, between the listing of my grandparents’ vital statistics and the list of children. The beauty of Register style is that it can expand as necessary to include as much information as possible. And if I have only a small amount of information, I put in just that into the above format. The format helps you walk through all your data, ensuring you put it in the correct place and in the correct order. And if you’re reading material in this format, it helps you understand just where everyone fits.

Penny Stratton

About Penny Stratton

A veteran of the book publishing industry, Penny Stratton retired as NEHGS Publishing Director in June 2016; she continues to consult with the Society on publications projects. Among the more than 65 titles she managed at NEHGS are The Great Migration Directory, Elements of Genealogical Analysis, Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, and the award-winning Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts. She has written for American Ancestors magazine and is a regular poster on Vita Brevis. With Henry B. Hoff, Penny is coauthor of Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History; she is also the author of several Portable Genealogists on writing and publishing topics.View all posts by Penny Stratton