Blog post

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A colour coded longevity chart

As I said in my recent Facebook post, I love a good colour coded chart!

Colour coded birthplaces charts have been doing the rounds, sparked off by J Paul Hawthorne. I confess I didn’t see his original post – I understand the trees doing the rounds are mostly based on an Excel template he provided. He certainly added a lot of colour to my recent genealogy reading!

I have been using various sorts of visual cues in my charts for a very long time. I’ll say it again – I love a good colour coded chart! The ability to add visual cues to charts is one of my must-have genealogy software features. Family Historian has exceptional capabilities in this respect but, and it’s a big but, you need to be comfortable with functions and formulas to get the most from it. Fortunately, I eat functions and formulas for breakfast.

On this occasion I was further inspired by Pauleen Cass, who took the colour coded chart in a different direction and added Health Inheritance information to her chart.

I’ve created a longevity diagram scheme with a different colour for each decade of life attained, 90+ being the top age bracket. I picked a colour-blind safe set of colours from the Colorbrewer website with a deep red/orange for childhood deaths through to a deep blue for those aged 90+. I’ve used grey for living/no age at death information.

I would really like to have fewer yellow boxes and more deep blue boxes on my tree! The two orange boxes aren’t so much of a concern for my own personal wellbeing – I survived having my children and I’m not likely to be lost at sea.


The nice thing about having a diagram scheme set up within your genealogy software is that you can then use it to look at other parts of your tree with no fuss.

My ancestors Robert Mack and Jane Mercer lost too many young children. Looking at the three grey boxes below – Eliza would have been no more than 15 and the second Robert no more than 10. I have information that Alexander at least lived to early adulthood, but I don’t know what became of him after that. My ancestor Catherine with the palest of blue boxes looks suddenly quite robust compared to the rest of her family.


Although Family Historian diagram schemes involve some setting up, they can be easily shared among users. Download the scheme, double click to install. Easy.

I’m thinking of giving this diagram scheme a few more tweaks – perhaps to use age at death estimates so more of those I-know-they-must-be-red boxes will show as such, and contributing it to the Family Historian User Group website.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Can you do this grade five history homework?

Recently my grade 5 son was given this homework task:

History - migration

During history, you have been examining migration and some of the reasons people migrate to different countries. Your task is to write a migration story about a member of your family, alternatively research a migration story.

Some things to include:

  • Name of person that migrated
  • Date of migration
  • Why they migrated
  • How they migrated (e.g. by boat)
  • Their thoughts and feelings about adapting to a new country
  • Any other relevant information

I'm not sure how a ten year old would manage this homework if their family were not relatively recent immigrants. In my son's case, he had a huge advantage since I've been researching the family for the past 25 years. At last, a reason for him to look at some of the research that I have been most excited about! I think he was quite perplexed to see how excited Mummy was about his homework.

I drip fed him source documents over a few days and talked with him about what they meant. Passenger lists, newspaper articles and of course the wonderful letter from John himself that I found at the National Library.

My son’s answer, below (included with his permission), was entirely his own words.

History migration John Allsop

John Allsop migrated to Australia with his wife and children. The boat left England on the 12th of March 1852. On the Chowringhee there were 319 passengers. Throwout the journey 95 people got cholera 98 people had fevers and 39 other cases even the doctor got sick and they were worried he was going to die. The ship had a total of 17 deaths. On the ship there were 9 babies been born including a new son for Jonh and Ellen. They arrived on 5th July 1852.

Johns family came as Assisted Immigrants because in England they were poor and the government needed more workers for Victoria. When he got there it was the gold rush but he did not run away to get gold. In Australia he was much happyer because he got more money and he had his own house he now had enough money he could save it and sent it to his mother.