Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Better Pedigree

As I think about pedigrees, there is a short list of things I wish I could do. Many of them are influenced by applications like Google maps. For example, I wish that I could easily zoom in and out of my pedigree. All the way out would show my whole tree, all the way in would show a person or two. Then I wish I could just drag the pedigree to where I want to be rather than clicking and jumping a generation at a time.

Well, recently for a prototype we've been working on, we had to create a flash-based pedigree. We thought that rather than just do a knock-off of every pedigree out there, we'd try to implement some of these features. We determined it would take about the same time either way so we went for it. We learned some really interesting things.

1) There is a cool factor about being able to navigate a pedigree like this.
2) It is meaningful on multiple levels to be able to see your whole pedigree.
3) This pedigree seems to provide better context.
4) Interesting information can be communicated at a glance. For example, when my pedigree is all of the way zoomed out it is easy to see that I have a couple of holes in my 6th generation. This may be a logical starting point for some research.

Here is a screenshot of my pedigree all of the way zoomed out.

(Click for a larger view)

If you count you can see 54 generations (a cousin of mine hooked up to a royalty line that I left in for testing purposes...). You can't really see in the screenshot but as you mouse over people their ancestors all light up in one color and their descendants all line up in another color. If you click on a person their details pop up. We're considering putting this up on a server where people can play with it. Anyone interested?


Mark Butler said...

I would like to check your prototype out, for one. I hope you are planning on doing descendancies too.

One very nice feature is support for persistent, user creatable, auto-updating charts that have just the persons or families or generations the user wants to include, ideally where the user has some layout control. That might be a bit much for an Internet application though.

Blake Christensen said...

I am really enjoying the ideas you are presenting in your blog.

I would like to see the prototype. What would be better would be to see my own data using the software. Someday!

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see this to test with my pedigrees. Most have hit brick walls only about 3-5 generations back, but I have one Danish line that goes back 10 generations.

Dan Lawyer said...

If we are able to make the prototype available we could support a GEDCOM import so that people could see their own data in the application.

We anticipate supporting descendancies in the prototype.

Has anyone seen other implementations of a pedigree that support this type of zoom-in, zoom-out functionality or the ability to pan through the pedigree?

Crwth said...

It seems that if I wait long enough, someone will finish my to-do list for me.

I asked an information visualization professor that I work with about genealogy visualization, and she was hard-pressed to think of any.

This large-scale navigability, as well as your previously-mentioned use of maps with family migration, are two of my main genealogy to-does.

lordscarlet said...

I would defintiely be interested in seiing this application. I would like to start some work of my own, but if there's already stuff out there there is no point in taking the time that could be better used for researching my genealogy.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing your ideas & work projects with us - what a great blog. Also, thanks for sharing things I have been able to use with my Family History SS class. They started with so much hesitancy and now after just a few weeks they are seeing that FH involves so much more than just "boring" names & dates. They are even bringing their own cool project finds to class!! Your video will knock their socks off after Conference. Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Would be very interested in the prototype. I appreciate all the fascinating ideas you are sharing.

Ben Crowder said...

In response to both Dan's prototype and Mark's comment up at the top, I've written a post on my blog which includes a mockup of one way to deal with these "smart pedigrees" (auto-updating charts). (Hmm, this sounds like shameless self-promotion. ~sigh~ :))

Nancy Schwind said...

Facinating! As a FHC director excited about the new push toward getting individuals involved, your ideas are very timely. I am not terribly computer literate, but would love to include both the video and pannable pedigree in my training and personal genealogy. Will you actually be developing software, perhaps linkable to already existing database software (Paf, FTM, etc)?

Dianna Solmes said...

Yes, I have seen a similar pedigree. It was the way One Great Family (or something like that) worked about 5 to 6 years ago. I subscribed for a while but was disallusioned when control over the data was no longer mine so I couldn't correct mistakes or anything and I quite using it. I haven't seen or heard of it for years, but it really had a great pedigree chart. One World Genealogy??? I can't even remember the name, and unfortunately, I seem to have gotten rid of the installation disk I had. Sorry I wasn't more helpful.

doug said...

Re: Crwth's comment about infoviz of family history, take a look at Alexander Cheek's visual history.


One can clearly see the value of effective infoviz and typography here. Something to think about for the online pedigree viewer at FSL.

doug said...


You've got the pedigree viewer idea going on here; any thoughts about converting it to a pedigree creator?