Conquer Complexity: Charting Made Visual

As more family genealogists have access to older records, we confront complex terms, codes, and complicated charting conventions. It is easy to ignore these knots, wrinkles, and chains, focus instead on a neat family structure, but such neatness did not happen in the past. And, I suspect those who immigrated to the U.S. also hid the family complexity, as so many left the “old country” behind. Personally, my elders never discussed these things. Except one.

My grandmother always told me that her grandmothers were cousins. This valuable clue became a quest when evaluating the German databases. I was out to discover how that relationship happened. And, were this true, it meant that her parents were third cousins!

This clue was a Pandora’s box. Piecing together family relationships,  the “consanguinous” or “reciprocal” relationships that I discovered can confuse even the most analytical!!! The ONLY way I can comprehend these complex family interweavings is to chart them. And, I am very surprised, when discussing chart design with other arm chair genealogists, that most avoid the complexities, make a joke about it, submit to double entries on their charts, and move on. Not me.

Double entries and structural “plates of spaghetti” are unacceptable to my visual sensitivity. And, these complex inter-linkings can’t be ignore, because the past is set in gravestones! We can’t go back and ask this cousin not to marry that one because it messes up the family “tree”! They weren’t concerned about us when they did this!

Visual Glossary of Genealogical Terms by Liane SebastianSo, I have begun a series of illustrations to make the complexities more enticing and easier to understand. As others run from unraveling, I am compelled to do it. My ancestors DID give me examples of every kind of intermingling. With a wealth of my own original configurations to draw upon, I can also represent the kinds of situations others confront.

Please see the growing “Illustrated Glossary of Genealogy Terms” in my  Facebook Album, and leave a comment. And please please LIKE my page!! Giving goes both ways and I am happy to share my journey with you, as I hope you will do likewise—share these illustrations with others and encourage me to help make sense of all this!!

Also, don’t miss my other historical illustrations. Google+ has a Collection of recent original one. Enjoy!


Being authoritative is a responsibility. So my illustrations are factual. Historically correct, they can be used in articles, research, and archival portraits.


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







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