Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Creating a custom chart

For the past week or so, I have been working on a project that has encountered a few pitfalls along the way. I started charting a unique family group with the basis being homesteaders in northern Sheridan County, Wyoming, specifically near Acme and Monarch, Wyoming.

I started the process using information I have compiled over the past few years, as well as personal knowledge of many of the relationships. The chart is intended to show as a graphic the kinship ties of many neighbors in the Lower Tongue River community.

The following statistics can be found in this particular group:
  • There are 49 individuals, of which 23 (46.9%) were homesteaders
  • Of the 23 homesteaders, nine were female (39.1%); 14 were male (60.8%)
  • Of the 23 homesteaders, six that had a spouse that also homesteaded
  • The largest consanguinaity group consists of seven individuals, relating to the Van Gorder family
I descend from six of the 23 homesteaders: Gideon and Eliza Lupton, William F. and Axtah Van Gorder, and Robert T. and Elizabeth Williams.

A chart created by Open Office Draw

I had started this process by asking for suggestions in the Transitional Genealogists Forum message board. Several suggestions came in for using a mind map, which is often used for mapping workflow, ideas or concepts, but has some additional utility. I found it to be a great playground, but wasn't the fit for what I was attempting. I was also referred to genograms, of which I am familiar and have played with GenoPro a couple of times. I again didn't feel this was adequate for my purposes.

I remembered that Rootsmagic has a charting program bundled with it, which I thought should work given the user-friendliness of the larger program. I launched myself into Rootsmagic Chart with mouse clicks blazing a path for my creation. A few hours of adding lines, adjusting lines, planning and replanning how to incorporate additional names in to a tight spot, I finished. I was happy with the finished product....until I wanted to save it. It turns out the program will not save a file in anything besides a proprietary extension. On top of that, it won't allow users to print, returning the message, "Wallchart printing is disabled in the demo version."

Bummer. The program info under the Help tab indicates it is version 1.02 and is copyrighted by Rootsmagic, Inc. 2003-06. And the red flag in my head goes up and the mental party balloons quickly deflate. Back to brainstorming. I wonder about the program in question being packaged with the larger program when it has no real use to any user, aside from being a place to sketch ideas out.

It turns out the solution is a pretty handy one. OpenOffice Draw is a perfectly capable program for creating custom charts with much ease. I kept my earlier attempt open and created a newer and fresher chart, of which I can say was a bit easier and seems to be more appealling to the eyes than the end result in Rootsmagic Chart. Sometimes the simple solution is one that is overlooked by wanting something fancy and created by a genealogy-related company.


  1. The chart turned out nice, Kim! Thanks for sharing the process and the final results.

  2. Wow - this is fabulous, Kim - very useful for analysis and recording family groupings. I can already think of several ways I might do something similar in one family/neighbourhood region. Thanks for sharing every detail!

  3. Great chart, Kim. I agree that sometimes it is hard to find the right tool for the job. I like a little MacApp Diagrammix, but the only comparable PC program I've found is Kidspiration from my teaching days. Unfortunately, it was a bit pricey. But fun!