Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Random Family Genealogy

Jeff has done a fantastic job of chronicling our genealogy*, uncovering many generations of ancestors for the both of us.  Sometimes I'll sit in bed next to him while he searches, reading the screen of his laptop over his shoulder, names like Mattie Floenda, Ernst Heinrich, Martha Jane.  Poetic, meaningful names.  Each of these people lived long enough to procreate and eventually create us, our family.  Think on it too long and it starts to fry my brain.

I've seen all kinds of methods to display the family tree.  But none that I've ever wanted to put on the wall.  

So I made my own.  One that focuses on the names, but without all that pesky organization.


Basically, I used a Tag Cloud generator to display the names, which shows the most common as the largest sizes.  You'll notice that we have lots of Marys, Williams, Sarahs and Johns.

Shocking, huh.

Geneology Background
(Here's the original file that I had printed up at Costco.)

Geneology- All Names- 500 Edwardian Script3 copy
(And this is a close up of the top right corner to give some perspective.  Some of those names are pretty tiny, so you'll find people standing right up close to scan them.  It usually turns into a strange little game of Eye-Spy.)

Helpful Skills:

  • If you are already familiar with creating tag clouds, that's about all you need to know.  Go forth and make your own.
  • Basic photo editing knowledge.

Tips: (as usual, I have quite a few, many learned the hard way)
  • I use Tagxedo because it allows me to control quite a bit of the style and design and also because it can save a pretty huge file, large enough to print, which is kind of the whole point.
  • When entering data, you can keep two words together by adding a ~ between them (eg: Catherine~Ann).  I only did this when I wanted a first and middle name to stay together, not between first and last names.  The reason being that I wanted all of the first and last names displayed separately, with their size calculated independently of one another. 
  • I suggest you create a separate text document to save your list of names.  Tagxedo doesn't have the ability to save your progress if you want to leave and come back to it (or accidentally click the back button on your browser, heh hem- don't ask me how I know this one).  I'd also write down what colors, fonts, etc you like for that same reason.
  • You can use any of the shapes available. Though I chose a simple rectangle that they provided, which I was able to print up to about 15x28 inches.  Joey thought the banana gave it a modern flair.  Heh.   
Geneology- Banana
  • You can even create your own two-toned picture and upload that for the shape, which is helpful if you'd like create a specific ratio for a standard frame size.  In fact, I've made some standard sizes for you to use if you aren't comfortable creating your own.  
  • You can use any fonts that you have already loaded on your computer by clicking Use Local Fonts.
  • Futz around with the colors and fonts to your heart's content, respinning the effects again and again, but if you see something you like, go ahead and save it to your computer because once you spin it, you won't end up with exactly the same thing again.  There is a history button, but it won't hold that for too long.  Personally, I had more than a dozen different versions as I worked my way through the changes, making note of the specifics in the titles of each.
  • You can even change the characteristics of a particular name (or names) to highlight them.  These would be great for births, weddings and anniversaries.  Basically you type the word (or words) followed by the modifiers.  Separate each modifier with a : and don't use any spaces.  They can be in any order.
    • Jeffrey~Gwendolyn [this sticks the words together]
    • Jeffrey~Gwendolyn:50 [this makes them larger] Try using different numbers to adjust the size.
    • Jeffrey~Gwendolyn :50: @0 [this makes them larger and at an angle of zero degrees or horizontal]
    • Jeffrey~Gwendolyn:50:@0:#339999 [this makes them larger, horizontal and turquoise]  You can find a list of colors and their codes here.
    • Jeffrey~Gwendolyn:50:@0:#33999:!Goudy!Old!Style [this makes them larger, horizontal, turquoise and changes their font to Goudy Old Style]  
    • For more details, check out the Tagxedo Blog.
Geneology- Jeff and Wendy- Edwardian, Red Tops, 380, no replication, Goudy Old Style

  • The Theme is where you chose color sets.  This is "Red Tops" and my original one was "Sunset on Watert".  
  • If you're curious, the script that I used for most of these is Edwardian Script ITC, which I had local on my computer.
  • Save the picture by clicking Save/ Share/ Print and under the Image tab, choosing the biggest jpg you can, 16MP.
  • After I saved the file, I opened it in Photoshop and cropped it down to the appropriate size, with a resolution of 300 pixels/inch.  (If you don't have Photoshop, you can find lots of free photo editing tools online.)  This will save you much grief when you go to order the print.
  • When cropping, I also removed the mark and border.  I did this because 1) I was putting this on my wall as art and didn't want a url mucking up the design and 2) I promoted it on facebook and donated to the creator of the software here
  • I was able to get this printed up as a poster at Costco for less than ten bucks.
  • For this one, I cut the matboard to size myself and left it unframed.  But you may want to make sure to upload a shape that has a common ratio for frames.
*I would just like to confess that when writing this post, I did not spell this word correctly one time.  I kept trying to type "geneology".  There, I feel much better.


  1. This is cool! I'm going to send a link to my sister who is into genealogy.

  2. Wow, Wendy! I can't believe all the work you did just to type the directions in this post! Great project, and I was glad to see your BEAUTIFUL real name, Gwendolyn. Is your middle name on there somewhere? (Kara, right? Or maybe I'm just remembering wrong...)

  3. Linda (Wander), thanks and, yes, my middle name is Kara. Well done on remembering that. My dad actually called me a year or two ago to ask what it was. When I told him Kara, he asked, "Sarah?"

    I mean, really?!

  4. This is really pretty! I love the Stephen King quote at the head of your blog. Thanks for the compliment on my apples. I think by far the pics of food is the one way new people find my blog. It was fun to visit! Thanks for coming by!

  5. This looks like a great project (and I bet it would make a butt-kicking gift, too!), so I'm certainly going to look into this.
    I'm not too into genealogy, but this would be a nice reminder of those past generations of family members that we knew, or didn't know, in the past.

  6. I love, love, LOVE this idea! I used your tips and tricks to create a lovely gift for a family member. Thanks so much for the idea.


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