Charting a Genealogical Knot

genealogical knot chart

Does anyone have this problem? To make a beautiful genealogical chart that tells a visual story, I have discovered many knots that I wish to portray clearly. This chart shows how two families interlinked. It gets more complex from this point too; cousins married cousins at least half the time. There are several entire sibling groups that married each other!

Charting out such complications is a major visual challenge. It took hours to figure  out this chart, which is edited from the Schmitt side. I did not include the marriages without descendants, which add more connections. It might require overlays to convey. Or might it need a 3D model?

Not living in an era of arranged marriages, we don’t have such patterns anymore. And I have not seen a genealogical chart that conveys it. Have you? Most charts just show direct line (I show the above chart edited to only the direct line below), not the inclusion of sibling marriages or the mixing of families. To me, this is where the story reveals itself, and when the numbers really speak. Beyond this chart, the branches continued to mix, increasing all the interrelations.

So now the problem becomes: What do you call relations that are closer than cousins yet less than siblings? Is not the genetic connection much closer in the children of two pairs of siblings? It would be as if my father and his brother married two sisters. My cousins would be much closer genetically than my cousins are today. It does make the gene pool a lot smaller, as it makes charting a lot harder. These charts only focus on six interlinked marriages, from the Schmitt side. There are many more that connect into this structure. And, subsequent generations all marry each other and make more connections between this beginning.

Did all European families do this? My family is fairly average, I figure. They were tradespeople who crawled out of the middles ages, became entrepreneurs, and half immigrated to other countries in the mid 1800s.

direct line descent

Maybe others don’t chart this way because to make a clear framework for it is complex in itself. With all the data at my finger tips to wade through, just revealing these connections took time as each clue revealed itself. It reinforces my fascination with how much life has changed, as well as how much there is still to learn from the past.

—Always inspired, Liane


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








10 Responses to Charting a Genealogical Knot

  1. Shari says:

    My grandmother’s parents were cousins. One of the aunts married a cousin also. They originally came from an area of Germany called Revensdorf. I find many second and third cousins married through miltiple generations. It makes a mess if a regular genealogy chart

    • wisdomofwork says:

      Wow Shari– The social implications of this are major too. On a graphic level, I am determined to find good ways to depict. It strengthens the family bonds in ways that are diluted in current generations.

  2. see double cousins where siblings from one family marry siblings from another. their kids dna test as siblings because they have the same set of 4 great parents.

    • wisdomofwork says:

      Thank you Richard! Does this not then, technically speaking, make them siblings?

      • our working definition of siblings are those with the same biological parents. likewise 1st cousins share a set of grandparents. the children of double cousins are 1st cousins who share not just one both sets of grandparents, thus genetically test roughly 50% shared dna like full siblings do. see also pedigree collapse for more information on the effect of these things for dna testing. another word to search for is endogamy.

  3. Marjorie Eyre says:

    You are not alone…and working this up in family tree software requires some tweaking as well.

  4. Fred Janssen says:

    Hi, can you explain a bit what program you used to create these charts? And maybe how you did it?

    • wisdomofwork says:

      Hi Fred, I don’t have a sophisticated computer program for these and wish I did. But I am picky visually, so I work in Photoshop. It may be the hard way, but it fits my background as an illustrator, and I can control the look. Might you have some suggestions? Thanks for your message. Smiles!

  5. Fred Janssen | Imtech says:

    In Photoshop? Wow, hard labour…
    Unfortunately I haven’t found the right solution yet…

    • wisdomofwork says:

      The labor is getting the data in there, but once there, it does give me a lot of flexibility. I can rearrange elements easily and try new combinations. But I keep adding more in the time sequence!!! I can easily imagine a vector-based program that can do this, but then, is it pretty??

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