I have two questions concerning family trees:

  1. What is the name of the initial person in a family tree? For example, if you want to know the family tree of a certain person, you have that person in the center and then draw lines from that person referring to all of that person's relatives, ancenstors, descendants, partner and siblings. Is it called individual?

  2. What is the name of the role a certain person has in a family tree? For example a sister, mother, father, aunt, etc?

  • Welcome to GFH SE! In order to get clear Answers to each of your two questions I think you should ask another Question and edit this one so that there is only one question per Question.
    – PolyGeo
    May 24, 2014 at 21:59

2 Answers 2

  1. I would call the initial person in a family tree 'the root' or 'root person'.

  2. Sister, mother etc. are the names of the 'relationship' of an individual to the root person. Special subsets of related individuals include 'ancestors' (from whom the root person is descended) and 'descendants' (to whom the root person is an ancestor). All individuals in a tree who can be linked to the root person are their relations or relatives (both words are used). How close the relationship, and whether direct or by marriage, depends on the exact path through the tree that links the root person and any single relative.

  • 1
    I'm most familiar with "root" for the initial person in the tree, but Ancestry's online trees also use the term "home person" for a designated person the user can return to with a button-click. I agree that "Relationship to root" is a common descriptive term for the set of relationship terms like sister, aunt, etc.
    – Jan Murphy
    May 25, 2014 at 18:17
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    I asked the same question on the English language StackExchange and I preferred their answer to yours. There the initial person is called Ego and the "roles" are called kinship terms. Ego can go in any direction, a root can go only downwards, right?
    – silkfire
    May 26, 2014 at 8:49
  • @silkfire, if your question is about anthropological terminology, then go with the answer you got on ELU. If your question is about genealogical terminology, then 'ego' isn't widely used. 'Kinship terms' does work in a genealogical context. 'Root' can go in either direction, depending on what type of family-tree you're drawing. A descendancy chart has an ancestor at the root; an ascendancy chart has a descendant at the root.
    – user104
    May 26, 2014 at 9:04

The person at the root of a family tree is called the proband.

  • 2
    I've only seen proband used in a medical/genetics context.
    – user104
    May 25, 2014 at 10:36
  • 2
    Proband is used in German genealogy for the root person. With its Latin roots, proband is probably used in many European languages in that context.
    – bgwiehle
    May 25, 2014 at 17:23
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    I have never even heard it as a word before let alone used in genealogical terms. Searching for it on Google turns up this Wikipedia article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proband which bears out ColeValleyGirl's assertion.
    – Colin
    May 25, 2014 at 20:47
  • @Colin, I didn't say the answer was wrong -- I said I hadn't encountered the word in a genealogical context before. bgwiehle has added some useful non-English context. The wikipedia article you cite does mention a genealogical use as the root node of an Ahnentafel, and suggests progenitor as an alternative, although progenitor in my experience refers to an earliest ancestor, but if you're doing a descendancy chart the progenitor would be the initial person.
    – user104
    May 26, 2014 at 6:47

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