About the family trees - software and type of tree.



Updated October 2018: various amendments and corrections, plus section on online vs offline trees

Online or offline trees?
There is a lot of merit in using the family tree building elements of Ancenstry.co.uk or FindMyPast.co.uk, because these
a) allow you to quickly visualise the tree
b) allow you to link individuals on your tree to source documents (rather than downloading copies to your computer)
c) get automatic "tips" where the service finds apparent links or additional source information for people on your tree and
d) help others to sort your work and offer help or tell you that they are relatives!

The one downside of this approach is that your tree and all your source information is locked into the service you've chosen. I think you can export your trees to the GEDCOM interchange format, but that won't automatically download the source information. Personally I still like my off-line method, but my wife swears by the online approach, and has found a few missing links via other users of the same service (in our case currently Ancestry.co.uk).


Software used to produce these trees
OmnigraffleIcon
There are plenty of programs for maintaining and printing family trees, including several for Macs, as well as plenty for Windows PCs. I've tried plenty of them and find them all rather a pain to use, and none of them produce pictures of trees in a way I like. I've opted for a purely visual approach, drawing trees in a standard way each time, using a great Mac program called OmniGraffle. It's not terribly cheap but is great for making diagrams of all sorts - similar to Visio, but as that's not available for the Mac I've opted for OmniGraffle. Sometimes I use the iPad version of Omnigraffle to do edits when I'm away from home - it works really well and the files are completely compatible with those produced on the Mac. Again, not a cheap program - one of the more costly on the Apple app store, but you get a quality, complex and yet easy to use app. Worth it for me. Your mileage may vary.

Once I've created the trees I export them to PDF format, on the basis that PDF readers (e.g. Adobe Reader, Preview on Macs) are commonplace and enable you to zoom in to see the detail, even if the tree is huge. Which sadly many of the trees are (Pilkington is a good example).

About the software used to make the web site
RapidWeaverIcon
This web site has been built and maintained using Rapidweaver, made by the great people at RealMac Software in Brighton, the same town that the main author of this site lives in. It's a Mac-only program that makes it pretty easy to construct the structure of the site, links between pages and so on, and makes uploading amendments to the web server a breeze. Hats off to Daniel Counsell and his team!

About the type of tree I've opted for - the Descendent Chart
There are umpteen ways to record and display family relationships. I've opted for Descendent Charts rather than Pedigree Charts.

Pedigree charts can be used to show for a single person all the people they are descended from - you might show your parents, their parents and so on. Of course this means you don't see siblings, aunts or uncles, but if you want to prove you're descended from royalty or someone famous (or infamous!) this is a useful approach.

Descendent charts show who descended from an individual. I've opted to show a "root" for each tree which is a Doodson and his wife, and have attempted to trace all the way to the present day. Sometimes I've had to include several roots for a given document as although it seems inevitable that the various roots are related I've not (yet) been able to link them. Sometimes I've started the trees "halfway up", because I've found a Doodson that I've not seen before, from whatever period in history, and then work both forwards (ideally to living Doodsons) and backwards, ideally to find which other tree they might belong to.

For me there are two benefits of the Descendent chart:
1. My personal goal is to try to link as many Doodson trees together so having a root for each makes this easier to do, and
2. It makes it easier to work out which tree people who contact me are on, and if they're on the same one as me, what relation they are to me.

By the way the Wikipedia entry on cousins is handy for this -
see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin - the table part way down makes it easy to work out whether you're a second cousin, or a something-or-other cousin once, twice or otherwise removed.

I've tried to make the trees as clear as possible, but as they grow bigger this is difficult. If you have suggestions for improving them let me know.


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