Last month on another Friday I shared some graphics from a video by CCP Grey that looked at the origin and history of the name Tiffany. It’s a great video and I highly recommend it. But last week he published…an addendum I guess you could call it.
The piece takes a look at a research path he took for the video. It happened to involve some history and genealogy, two things I personally enjoy, and found it to be a fascinating insight into his research process.
The screenshot above hints at the idea that sometimes work is not linear and, especially when I’m doing genealogy work, there are often tangents and dead ends. In other words, to an extent, I can relate.
Happy Friday, all. We made it through another week of Covid, vaccinations, asteroids, and all that pleasant stuff. So let’s end with an upbeat note.
Over on YouTube there’s a channel I have long enjoyed, CCP Grey, who creates videos about, well lots of things, but sometimes really interesting historical, geographical, and political topics.
This week he released a video about Tiffany. As in the name Tiffany.
In addition to some great 80s aesthetics, the video touches on a couple of things that particularly interest me.
You see names are an important part of genealogical research. After all, almost all of us have names. (Some infants died without names.) Now in my family, on both my mother’s and father’s side I have a lot of Johns. In fact, I broke a line of five consecutive John Barrys. But occasionally a family will have a rarer or more uncommon name that allows you to trace that individual and therefore his or her family through time and space/place.
Grey tracks the history of the name Tiffany from its possible origin to some reasons for its popularity in the 1980s. And that includes some great graphics like this chart tracking the number of children with the name.
In the screenshot above you can see one thought he has on why the name took off in the latter half of the 20th century after languishing for centuries.
But he also examined the family history of one Tiffany and how that became important in the cultural zeitgeist. And to do so he used a family tree.
It’s a nine-minute long video and well worth your time.
I think what’s interesting to consider, however, is how this story could be told for many if not most names. There’s a reason they exist and how, by pure happenstance, they survive and get passed down family lines.
Though I have to say I did a quick search in my family tree and I have not a single Tiffany.
Last week I posted about an article in the BBC on the English ancestry of American president Joe Biden. And these types of article are a bit pro forma, famous person has an article about their personal ancestry with a family tree attached. Interestingly, this article did not, just the timeline I mentioned and a graphic as part of an aside on the declining self-identification as English-American.
And that, normally is it. Perhaps the article comes out with a few revisions upon the famous person’s marriage, birth of children, and more rarely death, but that is it. Yesterday, however, the BBC posted a follow-up article about an English family claiming kinship with Joe Biden. This article, however, included a family tree of sorts.
This isn’t a family tree in the traditional sense, I would argue it’s the sort of chart genealogists would use to highlight two parties’ relationship to their most recent common ancestor (MCRA). But this chart does something odd, it spaces out the generations inconsistently and so Joe Biden appears at the bottom, aligned with the grandchildren of Paul Harris, the man at the centre of the story.
If you compare the height/length of the lines linking the different generations you can see the lines on Biden’s side of the graphic are very long compared to those on the Harris’ side. This isn’t technically incorrect, but it muddies the water when it comes to understanding the generational differences. So I revisited the design below.
Here I dropped the photographs because, primarily, I don’t have access to them. But they also eat up valuable real estate and aren’t necessary to communicate the relationships. I kept the same distance between generations, which does a better job showing the relationship between Joe Biden and Paul Harris, who appear to be actual fifth cousins. Joe is clearly at a different level than that of Paul’s grandchildren.
I added some context with labelling the generational relationship. At the top we have William and James Biden, assuming they are brothers, listed as siblings. The next level down are first cousins, then second, &c. Beyond Paul, however, we have two additional generations that are removed from the same relationship level. This is where the confusing “once-removed” or “twice-removed” comes into play. One way to think of it is as the number of steps you need to take from, say, Paul’s grandchildren, to get to a common generational level. In their case two levels, hence the grandchildren are fifth cousins to Joe Biden, twice removed.
These types of charts are great to show narrow relationships. Because, if we assume that up until recently each of the generations depicted above had four or five children, that tree would be unwieldy at best to show the relationship between Paul’s family and Joe Biden. If you ever find yourself working on your family ancestry or history and need to show someone how you are related, this type of chart is a great tool.
Credit for the original goes to the BBC graphics department
Today we move from the Iron Throne of Westeros (Game of Thrones) to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan. Emperor Akihito abdicated his throne in favour of his son Naruhito. Fascinatingly, because Japanese monarchs are not allowed to abdicate, the Japanese parliament had to pass a law allowing Akihito to do just that. It was also a one-time deal. The next emperor would need similar legislation should he ever want to abdicate. You will also note there are a lot of male pronouns in this paragraph. By law, women cannot inherit the throne. And when royal princesses marry, they leave the royal household.
Not surprisingly, the news today had some graphics depicting the family tree of the Japanese royal family. And you all know how much I am a sucker for genealogy related work. This piece comes from the BBC and it is pretty simple. It uses a nice grey bar to indicate the generations and some titling indicates who succeeds whom.
The graphic also makes rather painfully clear that if Japan wants to preserve its monarchy, it will need to embrace some kind of reforms. There are only four males left in the line of succession and only one is likely to have any sons.
Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.
One of the main objectives of my long weekend in Boston is to research my family history. Usually when you do that kind of research you see familiar visualisation forms: trees. And in this book on a New England ancestral family, I saw trees. But the problem is history is never as neat and clean as we would prefer it to be. Or at least as I would prefer it to be. And this is the tree I discovered for my ancestor George, the guy labelled N-1.
Normally family trees are direct lines of descent. But here the problem is that the current research cannot clearly state who the parents are of George. He can be one of two Georges, one the son of Francis and Tabitha and the other of Timothy and Elizabeth. So instead of a single trunk, we have more of a shrub-like set of parallel branches with lots of leaves.
But what I really liked about this graphic is that, one, it appears to have been made by being typeset on a typewriter instead of some fancy design software (the book was printed in 1984). And then for the researcher like me, the author took care to remove the names of people inconsequential for this particular line of enquiry. It shows the Georges of interest, including the known cousin labelled as C-1, and their parents but omits siblings. It is a very nice touch. (And made my life easier.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.