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?
  • 2
    You might be better asking here genealogy.stackexchange.com chances are you'll get a better answer.
    – Frank
    May 24, 2014 at 17:07
  • 4
    The person in the center is called Ego. The names of the "roles" are called kinship terms. All kinship terms in a given family tree (e.g, "maternal grandfather") are calculated by default from Ego -- i.e, maternal grandfather of Ego. See Kinship. May 24, 2014 at 17:13
  • @JohnLawler You basically answered both questions just like that! Create a separate post and I'll accept it after a couple of minutes :)
    – silkfire
    May 24, 2014 at 17:14
  • @JohnLawler Sounds like a category mistake. "What is the name of the role that Jane has in Bill's family tree?" "Her kinship term is sister." vs. "Her relationship is sister."
    – Merk
    May 25, 2014 at 1:57
  • Her kinship term is "sister of Ego". It's transitive. Relationships are sometimes reciprocal ("cousin - cousin" vs "grandfather - grandchild") May 25, 2014 at 2:55

2 Answers 2


Of course, sources may differ in the terminology they prefer. Sometimes subject is used for the person whose family tree is being developed, and relationship is used for all of the positions (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) to specify how the people are related to one another.



The term is progenitor.

A progenitor is a person or thing from which others are descended or originate. For example, it is used to refer to the ancestor who started the line of a noble family.

In a wider sense today it is used to refer to the person who originates a movement or way of life.

Read more at Wikipedia.

  • 3
    A progenitor only works downwards I think, while ego's relations can go in any direction.
    – silkfire
    May 25, 2014 at 16:33

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