The UK’s Genetic Clusters

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.

The colours don't imply relationships, for what it's worth
The colours don’t imply relationships, for what it’s worth

Credit for the piece goes to the Nature article authors.

Understanding Genealogy

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.

How the story starts
How the story starts

Credit for the piece goes to Tim Urban.

Genealogy of the Gods

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.

the tree on glass
the tree on glass
the tree in full
the tree in full
the tree in detrail
the tree in detrail

Credit for the piece goes to the graphics department at the Musée de la Civilisation à Québec.

All in the Family (and the Friends and the Neighbours)

Recently my hobby of my family’s history has focused on my Rusyn (or Ruthenian) roots. However, this recent work out of Stanford University piques my interest in my English heritage, even though much of it is very far back in time. Using my 23 × great-grandfather Reynold de Mohun you can begin to see how it links persons within families, how those lives intersected over time, and the geographical areas where that person lived. In Reynold’s case, it was the 12th–13th centuries in Somerset, England.

Reynold de Mohun
Reynold de Mohun

But as the title kindred implies, this piece is not just about direct family connections, but also the marriages and close cultural links between certainly the elite of British society. Below is how Reynold is connected to King William I, better known as William the Conqueror.

Connecting Reynold de Mohun to William I
Connecting Reynold de Mohun to William I

Family history or genealogy is a topic ripe for data visualisation and information design because it is all about connections. But I have found beyond the common family tree diagram little interesting has been created. This work is a solid start in the right direction.

Credit for the piece goes to Nicholas Jenkins, Elijah Meeks, and Scott Murray.

Heritage Maps

From FlowingData comes a post to an interactive piece by Bloomberg that looks at the geographic distribution of different heritage—read heritage, neither race nor ethnicity—groups. (Its choice of groups, however, is slightly contentious as it omits several important ones, including African-Americans.)

I would say that a typical map like this would simply plot the percent of each county, state, or other sub-division for the selected heritage group. Much like below, as I chose the Irish.

Irish heritage
Irish heritage

Bloomberg’s piece is a bit more interesting than that because of the ability to compare two groups, to see where they overlap and where they diverge. In doing so, they created a divergent choropleth that can show the subtleties and nuances of settlement patterns.

Irish vs German
Irish vs German

Credit for the piece goes to David Yanofsky.

The Family Tree of Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il is dead. And nobody really knows what is going to happen in North Korea.

But, what we do have, is the interactive family tree of Kim Jong Il, courtesy of the BBC. Select individuals are clickable and have short biographical sketches. Unfortunately, the tree has been simplified for clarity and it does not contain all members of the family.

The family tree of Kim Jong Il
The family tree of Kim Jong Il

Obama and His Irishness

Ireland, the ancestral land of many Americans, can also be claimed by President Obama. His maternal great-great-great-grandfather was a shoemaker. The BBC created this graphic to complement their news article. And I must admit to being quietly amused at the % ‘Irishness’; Approximate label.

The Irishness of Obama
The Irishness of Obama

Royal Wedding Genealogy

If you have not heard, somebody in Britain is getting married…and of course that means explorations of royal blood lines and, well, non-royal bloodlines. So the BBC put together a small piece on Kate Middleton’s ancestry. So for those of you with any interest in charting family lines, here you go. The piece has some interactive features, clicking on the folks with little cameras provides a brief bio or story and a photo—though not necessarily of the individual.

Kate Middleton Ancestry
Kate Middleton Ancestry

Credit to the BBC.

A (Multiethnic) Apple Falls Not Far From The Tree

One of my interests is genealogy/family history. While everyone is certainly more than the sum of their parts, that sum of parts is the history that led to your existence. And I find that notion fascinating.

When looking around the New York Times, I came across this interactive piece about complicated family histories. I am unaware of the exact impetus behind the project, but it probably has something to do with the unfolding US Census results and the increasing number of mixed marriages and thus genealogies. But I cannot say for certain.

Lou Diamond Phillips Genealogy
Lou Diamond Phillips Genealogy

The design of the piece is an interesting decision. Instead of a complicated and unwieldy diagram with lots of details, the designers chose to focus merely on photographs, when available, and little, coloured leaves to denote the ethnicity of each individual. This works to a degree in communicating simple ethnic ancestries, however, when one begins to have shades of light blue to distinguish between disparate ethnicities, one can begin to see a flaw in the system.

From an interactive perspective, I certainly think one of the more interesting bits is the inclusion, at least here in Lou Diamond Phillips’ tree, is the inclusion of the audio story as recounted by an individual. It brings a level of human connection that is always lost in diagrams. (Although these diagrams do have softer, curvier lines than most ergo they are more human. No?)

As someone interested in genealogy, the details are a bit light—but that was not likely the main intent of the piece. Beyond that, there are privacy issues with which to contend. But, if you wish, the New York Times does allow you to upload your own tree and even audio—to 10 megabytes. Perhaps in the future I shall upload a simple version of mine.

All in all, an interesting piece.