26 December 2014

Homemade Genealogy Christmas Gifts

I had an idea for a Christmas gift for my niece that I thought I would share. I know it is the day after Christmas but I was afraid that the secret part of my present would be given away but posting this on the Internet.

I have been aware of  word clouds for a while now. In my office there are several word cloud posters on the walls. The above picture is one of them. Treeseek.com can take data from your FamilySearch FamilyTree and create a name cloud.

The image above is the name cloud for my FamilyTree information. Treeseek takes the most repeated names and makes them larger than other names. Treeseek also allows to to create a cloud of All first, last, male or female names. I have created these for several of my family lines because Treeseek also allows you to choose with what name to begin the diagram. I have used them for headers on family Facebook pages or just as an image to grab attention for a post I make to a family. 

Last month my mother called me out of the blue and asked me if I still had the bassinet she loaded me 20 years ago before my oldest son was born. I do still have the bassinet because it is a family heirloom that not only I used as a baby but so did my mother. I did not realize I had taken out a 20 year loan until my mother called but we did use it with all six of our children. I asked her what she needed it for and she said that she wanted to put her heirloom porcelain dolls into it for a display in her home. I was/am a little bothered that this meant the bassinet heirloom might not be passed down to one of my children. [I am the oldest after all].

My wife and I began to discuss my mother's request. I couldn't imagine that after 20 years she wanted it back for her dolls.  Soon dawned on me that she didn't really want it for her dolls but if not for the dolls then for who? My younger sister had her three children before my wife and I even started our family. As the oldest child in my family the streak of me being first in the family to do things ended before I was even married. My sister having blatantly disregard my birth order rights also meant that she is was not a candidate for the bassinet. My youngest brother also had his first son in May of 2013. I thought I might have received a call back then from my mother about the bassinet, having received no call I thought the heirloom was for sure mine to pass down.

It was then it struck me that it must be one of my sisters children that was expecting. I had ruled them all out before because none of them were married -- but we live in different times now. My oldest niece soon posted on Facebook that she was seven months pregnant and expecting. I am not sure why my mother did not tell me the truth. They were probably trying to plan for the baby and also find the right time to tell the ogre oldest brother/uncle.

I am not sure why I have shared this detail about my family but... With Christmas quickly approaching and the news of the new baby fresh on my mind. I was trying to think of a gift to give to my niece. I was sitting in a staff meeting at work and I saw the above word cloud on the wall. I then thought of the name clouds from Treeseek. I had always wanted to make some sort of gift out of the name cloud but I wasn't sure how. 

Then I remember a blog post I made a while ago, in response to a post by Randy Seaver about Matrilineal lines, where I traced 9 generations of my mother's direct female line. My thought being I could create this cute gift for my niece where she might learn a little about her genealogy but also about the names of those women who came before her. Maybe she would even like a name enough to use for her baby.

I jumped online and googled word cloud. I came across a blog post about how to use tagxedo. I think the things I liked the best about this online app was that it was free and, like the above picture shows, you can place any words into different shapes like a rose. 

Following the instructions from the blog post I added the ten generations of women in their matrilineal line. I had to play with the setting and add or subtract some names to make some bigger and smaller. I also played with the fonts and the color schemes. I also decided I would also give similar gifts to my mother and sister who share the same line.

The above image is the final result I created for my mother, her name in Linda. I also chose to include the surnames of the women on all three of the name clouds. For my mother's I also added the names of my little girls even though they are not part of the Matrilineal line. They are very small but I wanted them included in her picture.

This image above I made for my sister. I had to add more Melissas and less Lindas to make her name bigger. I could of chosen any shape but I liked the hearts but this heart is shaped different than my mother's.  I also removed my daughter's names. I chose to only use maiden names and not married surnames names. I also added any nicknames or abbreviated names from the list.

This above image is the one I made for my niece. Her first name is Alixis but she goes by Ali or Lexi depending to whom you are talking. Her mother's name (Melissa) is pretty big, I probably forgot to take out the extra few I added when I made hers. I am not sure why may grandmother's name (Wilberta) appeared as large as it did. I don't think tagxedo renders the names mathematically proportional but when I shuffled them around I saw my niece's two nicknames and I decided this is the final version I wanted.

I did do a little Photoshop work to the images I downloaded. I made them all 8x10 to fit the frames I had picked out. I also added a full list of the ten generations of women included in the name cloud. I also added their birth year because it looked odd when I added the death dates to seven of them but three were still living. I know these are not perfect. I am not selling to promoting them as a product, but they worked for me and for this purpose.

After adding them to the frames my wife commented on how much she liked them. She said she though that her mom might like one too. It looks like I may be making another batch in the near future