As many of you know, genealogy and family history is a topic that interests me greatly. This past weekend I spent quite a bit of time trying to sort through a puzzle—though I am not yet finished. It centred on identifying the correct lineages of a family living in a remote part of western Pennsylvania. The problem is the surname was prevalent if not common—something to be expected if just one family unit has 13 kids—and that the first names given to the children were often the same across family units. Combine that with some less than extensive records, at least those available online, and you are left with a mess. The biggest hiccup was the commonality of the names, however. It’s easier to track a Quinton Smith than a John Smith.
Taking a break from that for a bit yesterday, I was reminded of this piece from the Economist about two weeks ago. It looked at the individualism of the United States and how that might track with names. The article is a fascinating read on how the commonness or lack thereof for Danish names can be used as a proxy to measure the individualism of migrants to the United States in the 19th century. It then compares that to those who remained behind and the commonness of their names.
The scatter plot above is what the piece uses to introduce the reader to the narrative. And it is what it is, a solid scatter plot with a line of best fit for a select group of rich countries. But further on in the piece, the designers opted for some interesting dot plots and bar charts to showcase the dataset.
Now I do have some issues with the methodology. Would this hold up for Irish, English, German, or Italian immigrants in the 19th century? What about non-European immigrants? Nonetheless it is a fascinating idea.
Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.
Happy Friday, all. I’ve been busy preparing for a trip to Boston next week where I’ll continue to research my family’s history. But family trees and generational relationships between cousins can be confusing. Over at xkcd, however, it turns out the in-law relationships are more confusing.
When I woke up this morning, the BBC was reporting that the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour. Clearly by the time I sat down to write today’s blog post, she gave birth to the child, a boy. And so now we have this graphic from the BBC showing how the new child fits into the line of succession to the British throne.
In all likelihood, the BBC had this graphic prepared well in advance. And once the child’s name is announced, it can be rapidly updated to include that additional information.
An interesting quirk I wanted to point out was the graphic’s use of orange. The graphic clearly shows how purple is used for the line of succession (and the dotted lines for divorce). But, what about the two orange circles, one for Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the other Prince Harry? Interestingly, those two are both in the line of succession as well, just not directly.
For example, Harry becomes monarch only if William and his children all die without heirs. But we all sort of knew that. Philip, on the other hand, is a few hundred down on the list, but is himself also eligible. Though the odds of that happening are so remote it’s a wonder it was put on the graphic. But still a neat little piece of trivia.
Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.
This past weekend I was reading an article in the New York Times about how a diary from the 19th century may indicate a plot in Gowanus Brooklyn destined for development may contain an old slave burial ground. You may recall how this author’s hobbies include genealogy and family history—how I would love to find a 19th century diary. Then, given this interest and the article, it was fantastic to find a map in the article.
Suffice it to say the map held my fascination for long enough that I saved the paper to post about it today. I was curious about two things, however, one, did the graphic have a credited author—it did not in the print edition—and two, was there a neat interactive version in the online version? The online version is simply a colour version of the map.
But the colour version does one thing that really helps make the graphic complete. In the print edition, there is no clear idea what the different layers are and it did take me a moment or two to understand the overlay. But the online version calls out specifically the map of the area from two different time periods.
Maps like these are my favourite. They blend history and the present. After all the places we live have often been lived in for centuries and they bear the marks of that inhabitance.
As to the first question, credit for the piece goes to Joe Burgess.
I have returned from my trip up north to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Unfortunately, from the research side it was not the most successful of trips. I did find some records, but none that answered any of the big questions I had. If anything, I now have far more questions. Most of the information I learned deals with the homesteaded land that John Spellecy received in 1888, at the young age of 70. It turns out by the time he was given the land by the US government, he had already made one contract to sell a portion of it. And so to make some semblance of it, I made this animation to show how the land grant disappeared over only a 12 year period.
For the curious, the background image is a digitisation of the US government’s original land survey. The A.160 denotes 160 acres, the maximum allowed by a homestead claim.
As I said yesterday, I’m up in northern Wisconsin. But sometime later today I should be starting a long drive back to Chicago. So let me continue with one more piece of genealogy- and information-related content that is especially relevant given recent events. Vox posted an article a couple of days ago that looked at the definition of black via census options. Of particular interest is the supplemental or sidebar information: whether you could choose your own race or whether it was chosen for you by the enumerator.
Maybe it’s only a coincidence that the 1890 census records went up in flames.
Credit for the piece goes to the Vox graphics department.
I’m presently off in the northern reaches of Wisconsin, Ashland in particular, researching part of my family’s history. To aid me in understanding just how this frontier-following family moved over one century, I put together a crude map and a timeline to give me context (and jog my memory) while searching through files in the courthouse.
I am calling the map a migration map. It shows the locations where family members moved to in 1849: Sheboygan (from New Brunswick, Canada). And then how they quickly began to disperse, but slowly head north to Ashland County, before most ultimately headed to the West Coast. (My direct ancestors are that group near the bottom that move back to the in-laws original home of western Massachusetts.)
What I struggle with keeping in mind is that here we are looking at a perfectly rendered and understood map of modern Wisconsin. But in 1849, the state was but one year old and most of the towns to which this family would be going were only a decade or so old and still very much frontier towns without amenities. (Which is why I imagine the women of the family stayed in Milwaukee until the settlements in the north were, well, settled.)
To the right is a timeline. The details are not terribly important and in fact it is poorly designed. But, it was quick to make and will hopefully help me keep the names straight and the places for which I am looking top-of-mind.
Put the two together and you have an example of how I create visualisations for myself just to help me with my own work and research.
I always enjoy the combination of two of my interests: data visualisation and genealogy. So this BBC article that references a Nature article piqued my interest. It looks at the distribution of DNA across the United Kingdom and identifies different cluster areas. The most important finding is that the Celts, i.e. the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall are not a single genetic group. Another finding of interest to me is that the people of Devon are distinct from both Cornwall and Dorset, Devon’s bordering regions. That interest is because my New England ancestors largely hailed from Devon and Dorset.
Credit for the piece goes to the Nature article authors.
I came upon this piece a little while ago and realised that it in some ways paralleled my own interest in genealogy. Basically the story comes down to realising that you probably only know a mere fraction of the stories behind all the people who led up to you. To put in another context: “you’re the product of 127 romances, just in the last 200 years alone”. Anyway, the article is a nice read and explains the math with illustrations.
Apologies for the lack of posting yesterday, but I had some travel difficulties returning from Canada. But today, we have a few photos of a family tree from a nice exhibit at the Musée de la Civilisation à Québec, or Museum of Civilisation, on the gods of Mount Olympus. My guided tour (in English) featured only the history of the gods—nothing really on the art or the style of the sculptures. But it was still pretty good.
I have three photos of the family tree, which is first presented in an elaborate glass piece that creates depth. Unfortunately this photo doesn’t quite capture the impressiveness. The next two are a smaller wall installation that highlights those gods that apparently lived on Mount Olympus and were thus the focus of the exhibit.
Credit for the piece goes to the graphics department at the Musée de la Civilisation à Québec.