Friday, November 4, 2011

The Connection Wheel: Displaying Your Genealogy

   I’m always looking for a new and interesting way to display genealogical information.  My father-in-law, an art professor and genealogist, was much the same way.  He would sketch linked family trees on six-foot scrolls of paper, each major family connected by a marriage.  I took his idea a few steps further and connected one end of the paper to the other – making a Connection Wheel.

   The letters ‘EKG’ at the heart of the diagram are the initials of my children.  One of my reasons for creating this Wheel was to get them interested in family history by showing them how they are connected.  Each spoke is their connection to a distant direct line ancestor.  Between the spokes are famous cousins that share at least two of those ancestors.  By default, adjacent cousins are also cousins to each other.

How to create your own Connection Wheel:

   First start with a deep genealogy, 10 to 12 generations works well.  I say this a bit tongue in cheek.  Not all of us have found 10 to 12 generations.  I know I haven’t on my own lines, but my children are lucky to have a mother with a great New England family history.

   I selected from my genealogy all of the immigrant ancestors.  These folks work well because they are also the ancestors of a large portion of the United States.  Next, if you haven’t already, research the ancestry of a bunch of famous people.  I have cousin connections for about 200 actors, writers, artists, presidents, and historical figures to choose from.  I narrowed the list by selecting only those cousins with at least two common ancestor links.  The next step is definitely trial and error.   Pick your favorite famous cousin to start.  Look at your narrowed list for all the cousins that are also cousins of your starting person.  Make an educated decision which one should be next either by knowing which ancestors are fairly common or perhaps to show some deeper connection like actors who have starred together or political rivals.  Continue the process of adding puzzle pieces until you have come full circle.  In my case, I have 11 famous cousins in the diagram.  Your diagram could have any number of connections.  Go wild.

   This is about creating engaging visual illustrations of your genealogy to help all generations appreciate their history.

   Try this at home and tell me about your Connection Wheels.

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