No legacy is more powerful than the history of the family. With images not found anywhere else and the skills to create customized maps, it is a pleasure to help genealogists and family historians embellish research, and make it come more alive.
Now that more databases are available online, researchers have access to unparalleled information. But what does it all mean? Looking past the dates and places to the impact of the events can provide a backdrop to any thorough investigation.
Visual stories give continuity and tangibility to history. General events and personal vignettes can be drawn as layers that balance. Always fascinated to say a lot with a little, representative images convey more than most photos.
Historic images have an added dimension for accuracy that escapes most illustrative approaches. To research, find experts, and imagine other times and places give depth to the drawings. In fact, often the research is more work than the final images!
“Historic Approach” shows the 2015 collection of images that begin several series.
“Search for Sebastian Surname” Though everyone is a blend of many surnames, they have a particular affection for the ones they own. My ancestors did not make investigation easy. Two of my grandparents had two of the most common German names possible: Schmitt and Hartmann. Fortunately, Hartmann married Sebastian, and thus my name. Unfortunately, the surname Sebastian is rare. As a give name, it is amazingly common! But few have it as a last name. It seems that back in the homeland, they may have perished. Unlike other surnames on my family tree, it is not easy to trace this one. I created this graphic to use in my appeal for information, isolating an individual in Germany that drops off the information records in the mid-1700’s. Then I went on Facebook to search for any that share these roots. Unlike my other Facebook queries, this one did not get any responses, except for praise on a nice chart. Where are you Sebastians from Oberöwisheim???
“The Thirty Years War Reset” Few advancements are made without conflict. But few conflicts are as devastating as the Thirty Years War in central Europe. Its impact even continues today in history, architecture, social structure, and genealogy. When researching my family origins, I discovered how much the conflict changed their lives and what it meant to be a survivor. Certainly with the rise of printing and literacy, the records became more consistent. Though the upheavals of war, famine, and disease often edited out many portions of the population, they managed to keep a thread of consistency.
“Historical Hessen Hints” describes my interest in the topic and the bread crumbs of data that lead me on a journey.
“The Thirty Years War Reset” is my exploration into the meaning of the history, the limitations of a 21st century view, and why it matters to understand its patterns and implications
“Historic Houses” has several series of domestic adventures. I particularly enjoy drawing vintage architecture. Houses are like self-expressions. Their appearance tells about the values and lifestyles of their inhabitants. Every building has a story. When combined with personal histories, and regional histories, the subject is woven like a fine tapestry. I have set up a special section on these collections:
“Ancestor Access: Allendorf/Lahn,” Germany with a collection of houses built in the 1600s, from the center of the ancient village.
“Evanston Evolution” portrays images from where I live, beginning with pioneers. Relatives came to the region in the 1840’s, just before the era of the railroad. However, I have illustrated many of the famous vintage buildings in this town, which I will add as opportunity allows.
Map Mobility ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Geography dictates to historical events. Cross-roads, border towns, mountain ranges, natural resources—all are factors that shape the evolution of societies.
I have never been able to visualize a sequence of events without drawing a map. Every place I visit, whether physical or virtual, I am not comfortable without an orientation. So, I had to turn this obsession into a professional attribute, and have thus been drawing maps for real estate or hospitality clients for years. And, more recently, I have been creating them for genealogy.
Anyone can get a map out of a multitude of computer programs. The magic comes into them when they can simply portray just the essentials of a certain time. They can freeze pivotal moments to help communicate their development. They can capture a decision or an action that ripples throughout a community—such as the spread of printing, and thus literacy.
My collection of originals is growing. I particularly enjoy mapping how time affects an area, such as the growth of communities. I have portrayed Milwaukee from its three separate towns until 1888. I have captured the north side of Chicago in 1929, just as the Great Depression began its ripple effect. And I have drawn migration maps of ancestors in Germany, Belgium, France, and Switzerland.
Recent examples of how my various approaches are applied include:
“Proximity and Progress: Surname Origins” uses a master Germany map that I have created. As a blank, I can easily update or change the featured locations. This one expresses the search for Sebastian. Most of the other branches share histories with many relatives, left a lot of bread crumbs, and produced a strong group of immigrants. But with Sebastian specifically, the footprints are very light in the snow. The earliest provable appearance so far was in 1635, Baden. I created it for my family reunion notebook, gift to the relatives.
“Immigration Map 1840-1860” was fun to do at the time, but now has proven itself incorrect. The time periods are correct, the destinations correct, but the starting points were based on American family casual recollections and messy records. This is basically what I knew for years. But, with the new access to European data, two of the sources are wrong: Darmstadt should be Heuchelheim and Bruschsal should be Oberöwisheim. But, it is a similar graphic look anyway. I am currently working on an extended family version—following my fascination with pioneers.
“Eras of Evolution in One Neighborhood” is part of the local history series. Through various projects, I now have a base map of Evanston that shows its grip; this is one small piece. Taking the map to the level of individual buildings allows a progression to be clear without animation. Every time I consider converting this approach to a layered animation, done so well on many map sites, I hesitate. Something else is gained by viewing the story comparatively, side by side. This neighborhood began as a forrest, with a trail down the top of a ridge. Pioneer farmers, including my uncles, bought land and cleared it for farming. A few years later, the railroad came through and thus begins this illustration sequence. Soon streets were laid, and it was gobbled up into the town.
Charting Concepts •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Perhaps the biggest frustration for genealogy fans come when having to read complex charts. But I find them endlessly fascinating!
It all began when my grandmother told me that her two grandmothers were cousins, and had the same names. I have always thought of genealogy as a tree form! If they were cousins, then something there must overlap, like branches growing together.
My graphic curiosity could never leave this alone. I tried for years to find out how this was possible. My grandmother just smile whenever pressed, and she died without giving me any clues other than a mis-spelled town name of their birth.
Once I found some new clues in Familysearch, as databases become more accessible, I have discovered the intertwined history. In fact, it has become one of the most difficult graphic projects I have ever confronted!
But, I finally have developed a lattice design structure to express how cousins married cousins, that eliminates the confusions of double-entries. More importantly, it is a graph approach to a new kind of structure beyond the genealogy tree! To do the most thorough an meaningful charts, I have spent a few years learning genealogical terms. So I have published a Glossary of them on Facebook.
Projects that show this evolving collection of design concepts are shown in its own section.
For many years, I have collected maps, drawings, and etchings from the past. Fascinated by the pre-photography representation, while compiling a presentation for a family gift, I discover I have a files of images no one else has. And, I love to compile and illustrate historic situations. The most frustrating part of my family work was the absence of good maps. Most fall in the realm of too much or too little information. So, I created my own that express the German villages of my ancestors.
Now I provide customized images to a variety of customers, including the U.S. and Europe. Always excited to learn more about other places and times, I work within a variety of parameters. Please enjoy this glimpse into possibilities.
—Always inspired, Liane
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Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.