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We present CLADES (cell lineage access driven by an edition sequence), a technology for cell lineage studies based on CRISPR-Cas9 techniques. CLADES relies on a system of genetic switches to activate and inactivate reporter genes in a predetermined order. Targeting CLADES to progenitor cells allows the progeny to inherit a sequential cascade of reporters, thereby coupling birth order to reporter expression. This system, which can also be temporally induced by heat shock, enables the temporal resolution of lineage development and can therefore be used to deconstruct an extended cell lineage by tracking the reporters expressed in the progeny. When targeted to the germ line, the same cascade progresses across animal generations, predominantly marking each generation with the corresponding combination of reporters. CLADES therefore offers an innovative strategy for making programmable cascades of genes that can be used for genetic manipulation or to record serial biological events.