Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pedigree + Family Group Record + Index: a dynamite combination

The nitty-gritty of genealogy is gathering information. Charting Companion offers great tools to get the job done:
  • The classic Pedigree chart
  • Matching Family Group Record
  • A comprehensive Index
Five-generation Pedigree

The Pedigree is a rigid, fixed-format chart that differs from the Ancestor in that blank spaces are reserved for missing ancestors, instead of compacting the chart.

Index for Pedigree Charts

An Index is a nice touch to quickly locate people, if you have a lot of Pedigree charts.

Family Group Record

The Family Group Record makes a great worksheet for family and relatives to fill in missing information, or correct errors. Easy to hand out a family reunions.

All three of these charts are generated automatically when you select the "Pedigree Chart" option.

Charts for Genetics

The Charting Companion Descendant and Outline Descendant charts provide some interesting genetic options: Y-chromosome and Mitochondrial. Both are useful for tracking the inheritance of genetic traits, passed on from ancestor to descendant.

Here is a chart of all the members of a family. The males are colored blue, and the females pink:
All the descendants
The Y-chromosome option shows all the male descendants who inherit this chromosome which determines gender. The Y chromosome can be used to determine paternity.
Y-chromosome - male descendants

The Mitochondrial option shows the female descendants who pass on the mitochondrial DNA to their daughters, and the sons who inherit, but do not pass it on:
Mitochondrial - female descendants (transmit), male (carry)
Unlike the other chromosomes that can recombine, The Y-DNA and Mitochondrial both pass down unchanged except for mutations, which makes them valuable for research and genealogical identification.

Tell the story of your family genetically!

The "Outline Descendant": compact and complete

The Outline Descendant is a unique report that lists a person's descendants, indenting for each generation.

Charting Companion's Outline Descendant has a special feature: an optional recap header.
Outline Descendant with handy "recap" feature
How often have you waded through page after page of a Descendant report, only to lose track of where you are in the pedigree?

Charting Companion includes a recap at the top of each page, a summary of the connection between the patriarch and the current person, so you can "keep your bearings" and know where you are in the tree.

The Outline Descendant includes a convenient index at the end, so the reader can quickly find persons of interest.

Telling the story of your family in a Book

Charting Companion is the only program[1] that can create a book from your genealogy data, and output it in a format that is truly compatible with your word processor: MS Word, WordPerfect, Open Office, etc. There are several benefits to this approach.
First page of a Descendant Book (aka "Register")
You can fine-tune the font type, font size, margins, page layout, etc. to suit your tastes. You can add photos to the book, in addition to the ones that Charting Companion automatically includes for you.

Charting Companion embeds special indexing codes throughout the book. These codes are unseen by the reader, but they guide the word processor into creating an automatic index at the end of the book. This is important because, as you change the format of the book, the page numbers will change and will need to be re-calculated. The word processor does this simply and quickly, giving you the option of a single- double- or multiple column index.
Three-column index with multiple page references for each person
The index includes years of birth and death, to differentiate between all those "John Smiths". Women are indexed under both their maiden and married names. The index can be configured so that surnames are only shown once; only the given names appear of all the people with the same surname. This improves legibility, and reduces the number of pages.

Charting Companion also embeds special "footnote" codes for your source citations. This provides maximum flexibility for the word processor to place the footnotes at the bottom of the page (or the end of the book), a complex balancing of text and footnotes that the word processor will perform for you.

If you want to take your family history to a printing company to be published as a bound book, your printer will need the special format created by Charting Companion.
[1] Other programs can output RTF, but do not include an index and footnote codes which are required if you want flexibility.

Bevels and gradients - how to spice up your charts

The Charting Companion programs offer three flavors of color - regular, gradient and bevel.

The gradient option creates a nice, smooth blend that softens the color, as in this example:

Gradient color

The bevel option draws a beveled edge around each square, and adds a nice textured gradient in the center.

Beveled color

Both options provide eye-catching enhancements that are a colorful way of telling the story of your family.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top-down, Left-to-right, what's the difference?

The traditional way of displaying a Descendant tree is "Top-down", from top to bottom. This is also called the "English Monarchy" style. Here is an example, my maternal grand-father's gang:

Descendants - Top-down
This format is well understood. However, it takes up more room. Our Charting Companion program offers another format, the Left-to-right. This format can be twice as compact as the Top-down, even when the same font size is used, and the same information is included.

At a family reunion, the Top-down format can be spread horizontally across a wall.

The Left-to-right format can be broken up into multiple panels: create a separate chart for each son and daughter of the patriarch or original ancestor, and display them side-by-side.

Left-to-right uses half the paper: more economical, faster to assemble when tiling multiple pages. Also cheaper at the print shop when you're doing poster-size!

Ancestor chart with siblings - the World's only!

The Charting Companion program has the unique ability to display a chart that includes the siblings of your Ancestors (uncles & aunts). The variable and unpredictable number of siblings makes this a challenge that no other graphics program has solved [1].

In the following chart of Mary Constance Colquhoun (my Scottish grandmother's family), it is interesting to see how they followed traditional naming patterns.

The Colquhoun-Miller families

 Note the repeating 'Robert', 'Alexander', 'Martha', 'Jane' from the father's side, and 'Jackson', 'Violet' on the mother's side. The first-born son appears to be named 'Alexander'. Did the first Robert (m. Mary Watt) have an older brother Alexander? This bears investigating.

Note also how the second-born son  in grandma's family was diplomatically named 'Jackson' after the oldest of the mother's (Mary Miller) side.

I can still remember my old grandmother telling me the story, in her Scottish brogue, of her "wee brother Alexander" who put a precious silver teapot, a family heirloom, directly on the wood stove in the old country. The teapot soon melted into beads of silver skating across the stove. Things were grim in the Colquhoun household that evening.

Note: The colors in the chart above were added manually. Charting Companion does give you the ability of assigning custom colors to individuals in your family tree (see 16 May 2011 post).

The display of siblings adds richness and depth to family tree charts. You too can display your ancestors' siblings with Charting Companion.
[1] Family Tree Maker has the option to "Display Siblings for Primary Individual", which only shows the subject's siblings, not for other generations.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Embroidery stitching

For the past few months I have been immersed in developing an Embroidery module for our Charting Companions. Our customers will be able to stitch a family tree on a T-shirt, which they can proudly wear at family reunions.

The embroidered charts are fan-shaped. They come in quarter-circle, half- or full-circle. They are available as Ancestor charts, or Descendant charts. Click here for actual examples.

The project was quite a challenge. In order to stitch a letter, the thread has to follow a pattern called a "satin stitch", a left-to-right zig-zag that completely fills the area of the letter.

Digital embroidery can be stitched on home sewing machines made by companies like Singer, Janome, Husqvarna, Brother, Pfaff, and many others. You can also have your family treee stitched at the local embroidery shop on machines made by Barudan, Tajima or Toyota.

The stitches made by embroidery machines are limited as to length, typically 12 mm (1/2"). To cover a span longer than 12 mm requires breaking it down into multiple steps.

Letters are created by drawing a line through a series of dots that form the outline of the letter, sort of like "connect-the-dots". This forms a polygon or multi-sided shape. Covering a polygon with a zig-zag stitch may seem intuitively obvious, but it is more complicated than it seems. Starting at the foot of the letter 'A', for example, seems simple. What do you do when you arrive at the horizontal bar? You can't continue zig-zagging horizontally, because it will require too wide a span. If you constrain yourself to the same width until you rejoin the rest of the vertical part, how do you remember to come back to the horizontal bar?

Very tricky. Design decisions which make sense for some letters, turn out to fail for other letters.

Anyway, after multiple false starts, we are pleased to offer our customers the ability to proudly display their research on a vest or T-shirt. Great for family reunions and genealogy conferences!

The embroidery feature is available for all Charting Companions: Family Tree Maker, Legacy,,, OneGreatFamily, Ancestral Quest. For PAF, use PAF*Embroider.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Charting Companion now available for OneGreatFamily

Progeny's Charting Companion is now available for the popular on-line OneGreatFamily genealogy site.

As OneGreatFamily's Website says:

OneGreatFamily is a cooperative effort between you and the rest of the world. It is an online genealogical service which allows everyone to combine their knowledge and data to build one huge, shared database. OneGreatFamily is more than a simple collection of different family trees. Using breakthrough technology, OneGreatFamily is actually linking all of the family trees together into one great family.

With the world working together on one database, each individual is able to leverage the effort and research of all OneGreatFamily users rather than wasting time duplicating research that others have already done.

With Charting Companion for OneGreatFamily, you can publish and share your research with these great-looking charts:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Charting Companion now available for

Progeny's Charting Companion is now available for the popular on-line genealogy site.

As's Website says:

Geni is solving the problem of genealogy by inviting the world to build the definitive online family tree. Using the basic free service at, users add and invite their relatives to join their family tree, which Geni compares to other trees. Matching trees are then merged into the single world family tree, which currently contains nearly 50 million living users and their ancestors. Pay services include enhanced research tools as well as keepsake products created from family tree data. Geni welcomes casual genealogists and experts who wish to discover new relatives and stay in touch with family.

With Charting Companion for Geni, you can publish and share your research with these great-looking charts:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How big can a PDF be?

The PDF technology used by Progeny can create a PDF file of unlimited size. (Well, almost unlimited: 231 pixels to be exact. At 600DPI, that's about 3,579,139 inches).

However, not all PDF readers are able to display large PDF files.

We recently did some tests, and have some interesting findings.

Here are the largest PDF files that can be read by some of the more popular PDF readers. It seems to be the overall surface area that is the limiting factor.

Adobe Reader Foxit Brava! Cool PDF
36" x 200" 36" x 259" 45" x 258" 45" x 258"
80" x 150" 80" x 150" 80" x 150" 80" x 150"
66" x 180" 66" x 182" 66" x 182" 66" x 182"

Do you have a favorite PDF reader that we can test? Send us your suggestions.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Custom Coloring for Charts

Progeny's Charting Companion includes a handy coloring feature that lets you assign a unique, custom color combination to any person in your family tree. Three colors each describe the text, background and border.

Border, text and background colors

Custom colors can be used to represent place of origin, medical condition, occupation, military history, etc.

You can explicitly assign individual color combinations to an individual by adding a "user-defined event" with the name of "COLOR". The description of the user-defined event consists of the names of the Background, Text and Border colors (aka. Fill, Text and Outline). The advantage of using an event is that the information is permanently stored, and does not have to be re-entered every time the chart is created.

The colors can be expressed as Red/Green/Blue (RGB) values, HTML Color Codes, or color names. Ex:

RGB255,0,0 0,0,0 0,255,0
HTML#FF0000 #000000 #00FF00
Color nameRed Black Green
Mixed255,0,0 Black #00FF00

Here is how to add a user-defined event in some of the popular genealogy programs.

Personal Ancestral File

PAF Companion will read PAF data directly and create a variety of charts.

To create a new event type, first define the event. Click on "Edit, Individual, Options, New Event/Attribute, New", and define the COLOR event. You only need to do this once.

Defining new event type in PAF

Next, add a COLOR event to an individual. Click on "Edit, Individual, Options, New Event/Attribute", scroll to "COLOR", click on "Select" and add the color description:

Adding a custom color to an individual

Family Tree Maker

Charting Companion for FTM will read FTM data directly and create a variety of charts.

Click on "Edit, Manage Facts, New" and define the COLOR event:

Defining a custom fact in Family Tree Maker

Next, select the individual, and click on "Edit Person", click on the '+' or press F4 (Add Fact):

Adding a color to an individual in FTM


Legacy Charting Companion will read Legacy data directly and create a variety of charts.

Click on "Edit, Name, Add":

Adding color event in Legacy

New FamilySearch

Charting Companion for FamilySearch will read FamilySearch data directly and create a variety of charts.

Click on "Details, Add Information", check "Other":

Adding color event in New FamilySearch - step 1

Click on "Continue", and define the colors:

Adding color event in New FamilySearch - step 2

What is Pedigree Collapse?

Pedigree Collapse, also known as Implexus, occurs when distant cousins inter-marry, and parts of your family tree are duplicated. Since the number of your ancestors doubles every generation, and there are more humans alive than any period history, it is inevitable that we share the same ancestors, and we are all in a sense distant cousins.

If you go back far enough up your family tree, you will find certain persons reappearing in different parts of the tree. When that happens, entire sections are repeated, and the pedigree "collapses".

A simple example is illustrated here, with first-cousins marrying.

Ancestor view: "Michael Smith" and "Priscilla Maher" are first cousins, they share the same grandparents.

Descendant View: "Abner Smith" and "Mehitabel Smith" are brother & sister, their children marry.

Progeny's Charting Companion gives you the option of showing every instance of the identical part of the tree, or only showing it once. This option is called "Cousin Smart", and is available for each of the twelve different genealogical charts that we offer.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

PDFs - are they all created equal?

Adobe's PDF (Portable Document Format) is ubiquitous. There are many libraries available to create output in PDF format. But do they all produce equal results?

A peek under the hood tells an interesting story.

There are two types of image files: raster and vector.

Raster files are like a TV picture: lines upon lines, divided into dots (pixels). If you stand back far enough, the dots blend into a smooth picture.

A vector file is like "connect the dots": lines are drawn between specific points. Vector drawings are crisp and precise.

Raster files can be very large; vector files are compact.

Raster files are good for photographs and "continuous tone" images. Vector files are better suited for line drawings.

When it comes to Genealogy charts, the lines and fonts look better in vector format. Naturally, photos are best stored as raster. A good PDF library will support both raster and vector, using the most appropriate storage for each format.

If a Genealogy chart is stored entirely in raster format, as in the example at the left (taken from a popular genealogy program), the raster lines can only approximate diagonal lines and letters. The result is a coarse, "stair case" appearance.

In addition, pure raster PDFs are much larger, require more storage space, are slower to transmit, and slower to download from a Web page.

Vector PDFs, such as the one at the right generated by Progeny's Charting Companion, are crisp and sharp at any magnification. They are often hundreds of times smaller than raster files. You can take a vector chart to a local print shop for printing on a large-scale plotter or printer.

Why bother at all with raster for line art? It is simpler for a program to output raster. The less expensive (and more limited) PDF libraries will output raster because it is easier. This economy is achieved at the expense of quality.