Other visualisations

This is a bit left of field, but I was wondering about the experiences of others who may have experimented with other types of visualisations aside from what is supported in RM, in particular, using Genograms or others?

RM’s ‘Places’ doesn’t quite have the flexibility for everything I want to geographically visualize, so I use Google Earth Pro, combined with downloads such as the Census bureau cartographic boundary files, ArcGIS, various historical map sites, Earth Point Township and Range shapefiles, etc.

I have my ancestors organized in folders by generation, then sub-folder by line, then sub-sub-folder by person.

Within each person, I plot their locations for vital events, census locations, etc. I also highlight their birth locations at the greatest granularity possible, whether that’s an entire state, a county, a city, etc. That gives me to ability to turn on or off entire generations at a time to see movement patterns, as well as individual lines, etc. A future effort is to create a per-Census folder so that I can inspect patterns that way.


There are also folders specifically for burial locations and speculative people. The burials folder is so that I can plan out future visitations in clusters, such as Texas + Arkansas and Massachusetts + Maine.

Two of the really helpful visualizations I can do:

  • plot land grant locations
  • historical map overlays.

Both have, in more than one case, helped explain things.

Example 1: Locating Levant Van De Bogart circa 1870

I’ve yet to find any land documents for that timeframe for him. But with a historical map overlay, I was able to identify more granularly where my 3x ggf lived. And, because the map is from 1875, I know his move to another place in Iowa happened after that timeframe and before the 1880 census.

Example 2: Locating Ben Cagle's land circa 1913

The town his family lived in no longer exists. But plotting their land tells me where they lived. He also had a brother and son acquire land adjacent.

Example 3: Proximity of 4x and 3x gg-parents

Plotting the land owned by the two families helped explain how two of my 2x gg-parents met. My 2x ggm was staying with her grandparents while the family moved. She subsequently met the son of my 3x gg-parents who were only about 3 miles away.


Wow! Thank you for the inspirational share. The use of historical maps and GIS mapping provides a unique and informative perspective. Just love it. I expect this is very time consuming to pull together yet very fulfilling. Great prep for “the road trip” and future novel!

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Yay! I’m glad you found it useful. I wasn’t quite sure that was the kind of ‘other types of visualisation’ you were interested in.

I’m not sure if you’re in the US or elsewhere. But I know there are also shapefiles, etc that you can get for places in Europe. For example, I have ancestors from Ireland (County Leitrim) and Switzerland. I’ve mapped them out in Google Maps Pro as well.

A bit. But, as you say, very fulfilling.

Blockquote @KimberlyGreen
I wasn’t quite sure that was the kind of ‘other types of visualisation’ you were interested in.

I’m curious what other folk think, trying not to be tool myopic, hoping to find those nuggets of wisdom in order to improve my own research in the convergence of history and genealogy.

GIS has traditionally been a specialist area. Tools making it more accessible is brilliant.

Oh dear, I’ve been calling it Google Maps Pro when in reality it’s Google Earth Pro. Bit of a faux pas. :face_with_peeking_eye: Sorry about that.

You know, one way that RootsMagic could actually help out is with some form of export tool. Google Earth Pro saves the ‘My Places’ information as a KML (Keyhole Markup Language) file. Those same kind of files can be imported as well. If RM had the ability to generate KML files with various data slices, those could be imported and speed along the further visualizations. (There are some utilities out there that claim to convert GEDCOMs to KML, but it would be nice to have that ability baked directly into RM.)

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What you are doing with these mapping resources is truly amazing, Kimberly. Your wish for RM to have a KML Export capability echoes an ancient enhancement request I made and a demonstration of feasibility and results with this outboard procedure a decade ago:

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No problem with faux pa :smile:
It is interesting that RM & co have another product Family Atlas, a light weight / simple GIS tool that can import GEDCOM and map events of people. It has been static for many years and offers limited mapping … perhaps a long bow to pull, but if some sort of GIS support was to be retrofitted into RM, it does not appear to be from a blank page. Export capability of KML on top of that! Again thank you for showing what can be done with mapping.

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More on mapping… over 13 years of tinkering with sqlite queries of my RM databases, I had developed some procedures resulting in geographic visualisations, all or most of which I’ve published under the tag #geocoding:

For example:

but then found I could get better results using RootsMapper.com:

Symbols proportional to frequency of use:

That reminds me of the PedigreeMap ‘heatmap’ view from MyHeritage. In fact, that was the impetus for me to start doing mapping.

Very nice. Thank you for sharing.

Something different I’ve been experimenting with:

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@Handy Have you made any interesting or surprising discoveries through genograms?

It sounds like an interesting technique, provided that the datapoints are available to work with. And, if they were, you’d think RM migh be able to provide a view based on them.

Tedious to draw for sure, using graphics software, so automation of such would be very welcome. I had a request into RM sometime back but probably got lost in wash with sorting out the new codebase … hmm.
As to using them … certainly helped in collaboration with distant Scottish cousin clarifying aspects of our mutual family connections with explicit expression of migration, naming patterns and religious affiliations of family members over several generations. The visual notation is quite expressive and compact. Lesson learnt: best use for a specific focus, line of inquiry. Not all data points are appropriate to put into a genealogy program.
Another example: a private engagement for a client tracing their patrilineal line, occupations over (10) generations, showing transition from agricultural based work to mechanised/industrial work aligned with corresponding migration and economic drivers of matching time period.
Still experimenting …

There was a recent post in the FB user group with this image from another family tree software of a one-place study showing a hybrid of relationships (genetic and marriage), associations of different types, … While not evident in this image, I think it’s also capable of icons subordinate to each person"s box to signify things such as were shown in your example of a genomics chart.