A Chart of Strategic Choices

The hardest part about designing a genealogical chart is legibility. If it includes more than four generations, there are too many boxes on the page causing the type to be too small to read. The graphic illustration might be beautiful, but it fails in communication.

With less than 20 names on a chart, the type can be large enough to read. Yet, this also fails in communication because most charts have more than 20 names. To divide the data into several chart components, connecting like a puzzle, adds another complexity, and again, is not user-friendly. As a historical illustrator, the information design challenge confronts me everyday in genealogy projects. Each person that I work with, if tracing lineage back to prior to 1800, confronts this difficulty.

Converging around 1700, these three families intertwine for almost 200 years. The first generation begins the momentum: Schmitt is red, Driessler is blue, and Dellwo is green on this genealogy chart.

It is not surprising that small 18th century villages had families that intertwined through marriages. The “ancestor loss” dictates the structure of the chart, whereas databases simply use double entry. These genealogical knots are where I begin a chart design, as this example from the Schmitt family demonstrates.

Genealogy charts become huge fast, as generations expand. “Alliances of Ironworkers” has 13 participants in three generations (it does not include all the siblings or show other spousal surnames, focusing only on three: Schmitt, Driessler, and Dellwo from the Rhineland’s Züscher-Hammer ironworks).

Through adding three more generations, there are 34 names in chart “Interlinking Ironworkers,” which goes from 1700 (when they all arrived in one place) to the 1850s. In this design, by making the circles into ovals, I saved half of the vertical space. This changes the overall shape of the chart from a square to a horizontal rectangle, which fits onscreen.

Portraying the relationships of three families out (from the ten introduced in Ore and Origins”) the result is that the immigrant generation in the mid 1800s were all cousins—many double cousins and some triple. I profile their history in “Dedication and Definitionwhere I add the next generations.

A Schmitt relative recently sent me a message: “How are you related to me?” I found I could not answer him without a chart, because he is a triple fifth cousin! Many cousins do not know the family history back to Germany. (I didn’t either until the data started coming online a few years ago.) This is very sad to me because it is through our ancestors that we know who we are. To lose that is to lose an important part of ourselves. Finding the story in the experiences gained through ten generations is a precious gift that not many people can claim—though now they can if they want to. It does take an acceptance of both the positive and the negative—do we believe that some things are worth forgetting? I hope that this story inspires a wish to know more, so that the wisdom gained is not lost.—always inspired, Liane

Please enjoy other examples of my chart design portfolio.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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A Boast of Modesty

It is only within the last few years that historians have become fascinated with the everyday lives from the past. Maybe it was inspired by the 2,000 year-old Roman “notes” jotted on stone scraps, used at Hadrian’s Wall for messaging. These inspired the realization that lifestyle has changed and has not changed—historians seek to determine how little or how much. Such comparisons are best measured in the effects and events of every day people.

One of my family surnames is extremely common: Schmitt. What German descendant does not have a few in dotted through family trees? Fortunately, much is known about this Schmitt branch, through who they married and where they lived. I have endeavored to express their migration through illustrations in “Symbolic Schmitt: A Surname Biography in Three Images.”

The last German residences, before immigrating to the Midwest, were in Rhennish villages clustered around the ironworks of Züscher-Hammer. This house on Brunnenstraße in Züsch, is chosen to represent the simple 1-1/2 story “hut” construction homes that were fast, efficient to build and to maintain. The Schmitt family lived and worked in the area for nine known generations—over 200 years.

It is cool that my family history represents a large percentage of the average American lineage that possess 25% German DNA. Similarly, I’ve always done well in business by being a barometer of comprehension, which helps to develop insight into shared cultures. On the one hand, what makes progression significant requires diverse contributions. But what makes a culture strong requires a commonality of purpose, continuity of effort, and commitment to shared values. So progress becomes a study and a blend of what contrasts and what complements.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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Rascal’s Revolt: A Memorial Tribute

There are always two ways to perceive a person’s character: through public and through private behavior. From personal experience, I have found these two persona can be very different from one another. For example, once I met a famous publisher who, from the podium, seemed like the nicest person—like he would be an engaging dinner companion. But when I got to know him while serving on a conference project, he was arrogant and self-absorbed. His partner, wooden and nervous when speaking publicly, was warm and perceptive. You never know. My ancestor, featured here, got mixed reviews—a contrast between the public and the private.

For this Memorial Day, I reflect on all my patriotic ancestors that have served in the military. Several risked or lost their lives in our country’s major conflicts. These events forever changed their lives, and the lives of their descendants. I wrote Pioneering Patriot to tell the story of my first ancestor to fight for American freedoms.

My great-great-grandfather, John Schmitt, was a Civil War veteran. We revere him, at the same time, question some of his activities. The family tells many stories of his rascal nature. On the one hand, he was a true patriot, successful businessman, and contributed to the community. On the other, he had three wives, engaged in some dubious circumstances, and formed contentious personal relationships.

As part of family history, I wish to pay tribute to his uniqueness. We have a photograph of him in his uniform in 1853. When researching his background, his militant tendencies, and his courageous nature, his activities started with his independent convictions in Germany. Then, bringing the same values to his new country, he was willing to again stand up for them.

The 4th Wisconsin Volunteer website has well documented his regiment, their marches, battles, and profiles. His was Company L and then Company H. For Civil War enthusiasts, this is a must-read! (I have contributed John Schmitt’s biographical sketch to their archives): http://www.4thwisconsin.com/

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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Magnetic Migration: Ironworkers to Züsch

When I drew the regional map to express the convergence of ironworkers in 1700 Germany, the results didn’t satisfy. Although its scale offers the proximity of villages and forges, it doesn’t give a larger national context. To adequately tell the story of these industrious ironworkers is to show the regions that contributed its pioneers. Zooming in too close on the map destroys an immediate geographic recognition; the setting in central Europe must include the borders of France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland to be most understood. So, this new design shows the region, its continental position, and still emphasizes its centralizing migration.

In “Ore and Origins,” I profile these ten pioneering families (their progenitors are 9 and 10 generations removed). The managers of Züscher-Hammer were primarily local German professionals. But half of the skilled workers were imported from Belgium, hired by Hauzer. Their trades included blacksmiths, tool-makers, carpenters, developers—all those needed to build infrastructure and industry. The ten ancestor families represent a successful diversity of origins and blend of contributions.

Data from these family groups reveal a larger story of innovation, perseverance, and independent thinking. The decisions of siblings, cousins, and in-laws mirror the history that eventually contributed to American culture. Their continuing skills were fundamental to pioneering. Though the Belgian workers in 1700 may have only moved hundreds of miles versus the thousands of miles their immigrant descendants would undertake 150 years later, the change for them was as dramatic and challenging.

Map illustrations have always been some of my favorite projects. From years of commissions, I have a library of original global, regional, and town locations. I adapted my European Master for this Immigration Map, making it efficient to create. So, I can offer map illustrations to fit customer data very affordably. Please see samples of illustrative maps that can be used to enhance family legacy. —always inspired, Liane

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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Continuity of Construction

Architecture marks the character of a place longer than its inhabitants, who offer the timeline of evolution. Blending past with future is a running theme in much of my work—a curiosity to not ignore the rearview mirror. But mine is more than a desire not to burn bridges, it is a commitment to learn from the past. Through the research I do for illustration, I become immersed in subjects enough to present, simply and symbolically, their essences. I hope that I can extend my imagination, through modern technology, help from friends, and research, back in time. Working on a series of Hessen historic homes, I am very grateful to cousin Tom Euler, mayor of Allendorf, who has assisted in this time-travel adventure.

What strikes me most about the architecture in Allendorf (the new homes mirror the old) versus the architecture of where I, as a descendant live near Chicago, reveals the a difference in lifestyle values. There, the street side of the homes are formal and uninviting. Gates close off the house entrance as well as enclose courtyards. Where I live, the entrance doors are on the front, have with walkways and steps up to a porch. If there is not room for a small front yard, there is always a median with trees and grass. In Allendorf, the gardens, trees, and grass are hidden behind the street facades. Yet essentially, the interior floor plans of the homes are probably similar. The silhouette of peaked roof and outline is similar; barns become garages.

The differences between the feeling of a central European village and a midwestern United States town demonstrates how architecture both dictates and reflects the lifestyle of its inhabitants. As I draw structures in a town of ancestors, I get a perspective of the culture preserved by descendants and the cultural change the immigrants embraced. —always inspired, Liane

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Historic Access— An exploration of family origins leads back to 1500 Allendorf/Lahn-Giessen, Germany. Through a friendship, an amazing discovery, and a place that integrates natural beauty, history, and contemporary living, there is much to inspire. They are proud of many houses that were build in the late 1600s and early 1700s. A series of illustrations captures some of these historical gems and the impact of time.

Spirit of Place: Creation versus Preservationexamines a life-long dilemma of balance. There is a trend in Allendorf to plaster over the original half-timber skeletons. From an American point-of-view, these wooden patterns offer a warmth, coziness, and charm. But, it may be that to the residents, that makes an area appear old-fashioned or out of date. These homes, though hundreds of years old, are very much within date! The plaster lends a geometry, simplicity, and unity, while following the shapes and design. Taking an illustration that I did of Obergasse 7 in Allendorf, I imagine what it must have looked like when my ancestors lived there. Most of the homes that I have drawn would be familiar to them.

Finding Foundations It is impressive how much of the past is preserved in Hesse, considering the turmoils that challenge survival. Allendorf is proud of its central old town that has evolved for almost four hundred years. Any of these could have been homes to ancestors, today occupied by cousins.  From the center of town, illustrating the historic buildings along Obergasse is a walking-tour of the imagination. It represents a continuity very rare in the “new world,” and a determination for preservation that continues from generation to generation. Through this journey, I find a kindred spirit asking many of the same questions.

Historic Hessen Houses Several of the Heritage Cultural homes display the half timber construction. From an American viewpoint, their wood patterns convey a warmth and charm. Distinctive consistency gives a harmony to the ancient streets, and the mix of new between the old still maintains style. It turns out that I am descended from three of the founding families, and discover much in common with cousin Tom Euler, mayor of Allendorf.

Please see this related example of my illustrations:

beforeafter-house200Drawing Backwards in Time Although a building may have endured many changes since built, hints of its original form exists. Sometimes old photographs show how a house looked, but most often, there are no images. Illustration can fill the gap. I have always wondered what my house was like in 1888 when new. It certainly does not look the same now! With an enclosed front porch, room additions, siding, and decorative shutters, its character is totally transformed. So I went to City Hall, researched the permits and historic records, and concluded with this interpretation.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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The Pioneers of the Pioneers: ironwork innovators

A common mission could bring ancestors together, as could religion or ethnicity. The former encourages diversity, whereas the latter two encourage sameness. Though it is human nature to have divisions between groups, diversity brings innovation. This is displayed in my lineage—a lesson discovered.

Americans identify with our immigrant ancestors—the pioneering progenitors. Yet, these courageous souls were the products of many earlier ones. For example, the Thirty Years War of the early 1600s, redefined the European social structure. It was like wiping the chalkboard and writing new topics. Genetically, the loss of population had great effect. Founding families became established.

Rebuilding after a war takes heroic effort. Survivors are defined by dramatic change and must begin a new life from devastation. “Ore and Origins: pre-industry pioneers” explores this evolution.

Most people study European history via the war portrayals. But there is a bigger story to be told in the rebuilding process. A personal level makes it more understandable. It is perhaps the major reason I am fascinated with genealogy: through the stories of everyday people, and how they coped with societal dictates, history becomes clarified. It is through understanding where we have been that we discover where we are heading.

As a gift to my family, in constructing our Family Reunion Book, I created this map to express the events that created a new economic foundation. This group of ancestors stands out because they assembled in one place around 1700, to rebuild an industry, and stayed there for generations to do it. This is unusual.

There is a funneling down of proximities because, eventuality, ancestors must converge to procreate! But my immigrant great great grandfather who came to Milwaukee from Züsch, brought with him a consistency where all his ancestors worked at the same enterprise for hundreds of years. Their story of convergence is a tale of opportunity, contribution, and planting seeds for the industrial revolution.

The ironworkers who assembled after multiple war devastations were pioneers in a different way than the honored Atlantic-crossers. They constructed from the ruins of the past despite the challenges of the present. They set the stage for industrial progress, which may be credited later to the British, but evidence shows, began in Germany.  I call them unsung heros of progress.

—always inspired, Liane

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Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the late 1700s, manufacturing was often done in people’s homes, using hand tools or basic machines. Industrialization marked a shift to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production. The iron and textile industries, along with the development of the steam engine, played central roles in the Industrial Revolution, which also saw improved systems of transportation, communication and banking.” http://www.history.com/topics/industrial-revolution

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.
BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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Ancestor Access: Allendorf an der Lahn

Visualizing places of origin can bring genetic stories to life. I like to follow the mysteries of the family tree and see what the facts reveal. This leads me to read a lot about the histories of the towns of origin.

This journey has led to my earliest roots in Allendorf/Lahn. Tom Euler, Allendorf’s resident historian and mayor, has assisted me in research for illustrating buildings that have survived for over 300 years. I created a series of images that express how they successfully blend the new while preserving the old.

Most architecture that is well-studied tends to be grandiose. Yet, it is the modest that more tells the story of history’s impact.

As two ancient lanes cross by a large linden tree, the tiny village grew. Today, vintage houses line these same streets. The distinction and charm of their blend inspires.
Please see “Finding Foundations” and
Historic Hessen Houses.

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About Obergasse 1:

The old “bakery” that I illustrated is in the center of the ancient town. Tom Euler sent me pages from a book published on Allendorf’s buildings about forty years ago. From it, I learned the history of many structures, including this one that I chose due to its location and its charm. Quoting from a translation, Tom’s book, Stadtteil Allendorf Gesamtanlage Dorfkern,  states:

A predecessor of the present bakery was already in place before 1700. In 1727 it was thoroughly renovated, parts of the old building being demolished. As there was no other place in the village, one of the ovens of the bakery and probably the old guardhouse was broken off. In 1816, the squatter house was built on the vacated site. Equipped with a storage floor for fruits, it also served as a local prison. The building, which was combined with the bakery under one roof, received in 1855 a hose drying tower. The storage area above the actual baking house also served traditionally as accommodation for travelers. Curiously bought the municipality 1847 a militarily landmark from the ‘prince. Hess government’ and set it up as a deflector at the corner of the building. The long-stretched, saddle-roofed building, whose half-timbered facade is visible on the north side, has recently been renovated. Together with the now renovated Dorflinde, it marks the center of the village. The historically grown, multifunctional building has a high memorial and identification value for the Allendorf population. It is a cultural monument from the point of view of [architectural] history, social history and science.”

—always inspired, Liane

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.
BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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