In German, Spitzenahn (plural Spitzenahnen) describes an ancestor (male or female) without parents that are known to you. It is not necessarily a brick wall (or an orphan with never known parents), although it can be. It’s the current limit of your researched family branches.

What is the English equivalent to the German term “Spitzenahn”?

See also the question How do I create a list of my most distant ancestors online or with a Mac?.

3 Answers 3


There is no direct equivalent of Spitzenahnen in English; a literal translation would be peak-ancestors or point-ancestors. There are a number of phrases used in genealogy literature and software that are often used in the same way:

  • end-of-line ancestors
  • brick wall ancestors
  • family founders / founding fathers
  • patriarchs / matriarchs
  • immigrant ancestors (American research once had great difficulty getting beyond this point)

Additional options that may be closer to the desired term are actually translations of another German word, Stammeltern

  • clan parents
  • progenitors

I just found a webpage from Legacy Family Tree that refers to them as end-of-line ancestors and it seems to have a function to find them:

End-of-line ancestors. We all have them. We think about them. We study them. We even dream about them. Once we find their parents, we do a quick Genealogy Happy Dance, and then it starts over again - we now have new end-of-line ancestors.

Who are your end-of-line ancestors? Let Legacy Family Tree identify them for you using one of the two following methods.

Special Search List

1.First, in the Family View, navigate to yourself.

2.Click on Search > Find > Miscellaneous tab.

3.Select the "Direct-line ancestors with no parents" option and click on Create List.

The resulting Search List displays each of your direct-line ancestors who do not have parents. In other words, these are your end-of-line ancestors.


Per Google Translate "Spitzenahnen" is "Patriarch".

So for example: http://www.genealogie-kosma.de/html/spitzenahnen.html

Spitzenahnen sind die jeweils ältesten Vorfahren in einer Ahnenreihe, zu denen Daten für die Eltern fehlen. Ein Familienforscher, der seine Vorfahren einschließlich der Ururgroßeltern vollständig (aber auch nicht darüber hinaus) erfasst hat, hat danach 16 Spitzenahnen.

This program says it is available for Mac:


Patriarch (Definition): "Patriarch is the oldest ancestors in an ancestral line to which missing data for the parents. A family researcher, his ancestors, including the great-great grandparents in whole (but not beyond) has collected, then has 16 Patriarch. "(GenWiki)

So you are looking for a Patriarch List in your other post.

This program (Familienbande) in German says it is available for Mac, Linux, and PC and specifically lists as one of its features.

Patriarch: template generates a table of all ancestors of a starting person with no known parents.



  • This sounds more like the male head of a family. Your Spitzenahn can be male or female.
    – lejonet
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 11:29
  • Yes I get that. I was just referencing the translation and the spelling I have (vs. the question) Google translate pops up with a lot more hits and options and it uses "Patriarch" in all of its German to English translations of website. Which if you can deal with a foreign language program it looks like there already may be already a program.
    – CRSouser
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 11:40

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