Family tree timelines

As I talked about in my previous post, I created a simple family tree visualisation program to let me know which of my ancestors I have the most interest for.

I also prototyped up a timeline view – in the above image. It’s probably pretty obvious that it’s a prototype, as there are no labels to identify any of the individuals.

The idea for this came about as genesreunited has a non-validated freeform text field for all entries of dates. There’s no way to validate whether this information is valid for GEDCOM export – the GEDCOM spec lets various dates, such as approximate dates, bounded dates, dates within a specific quarter etc. to be specified but obviously the date has to be specified in the correct format.

I wanted to check that all dates were both in the correct format, and actually valid (i.e. check for nonsensical dates such as parents born after their children etc).

The idea behind the colouring is for green to show a GEDCOM format valid date, yellow to specify a missing date (with the date inferred), and red to indicate an invalid date.

The opacity is to indicate the ‘confidence’ in a date – with a specified date range not being at full opacity. Also, the dates can be inferred using a set of rules (e.g. parents should be at least 12 years older than their children, a child is probably born within a year of his or her baptism, the first child is born within a year of his or her parents marriage etc.). These rules could obviously get quite complicated.

The layout matches pretty much the layout of the ancestor chart, with ancestors being adjacent to each other. I was fussing over this a little bit – I thought it’d be nice for the descendents on the chart to be nearest to each other on the x-axis), but there’s no way for this to happen through the tree.

I was feeling pretty happy with this, and thought that it’s probably worth putting into the app (with some tweakes such as making the y-axis an adorner layer that adjusts with scale etc), but then I found that there’s some software which has a pretty-much identical view to this (I did google around for this before implementing, I obviously didn’t google hard enough).

Progeny Genealogy has an identical layout (OK, turned on its side). It even has the same idea of using opacity to indicate what data is estimated (not varying opacity, but even still). I guess that there’s only so many ways to solve a problem, but it’s still gutting when you think you’ve had an original idea!