Ancestor Migration Paths
One of my favorite rabbit holes is genealogical research. With websites like familysearch.org or ancestry.com, it is easy click your way back in time and explore your ancestors.
I wanted to visualize the migration routes that my ancestors took. There are in fact tools that will do this for you (e.g., RootsMapper), but I wanted to create something that I could customize for my own research.
I decided on kepler.gl, an open source geospatial analysis tool, for its powerful capabilities and ease of use.
The visualizations here show the migration of my ancestors from Europe to the Americas, ending at Dallas, Texas, where I was born. The data goes back about 15 generations, and the earliest point shown is from the year 1394.
The migration paths are depicted as an arc plot (origin-destination plot). Blue represents the origin, and orange is the destination, so the flow from blue to orange indicates the direction of migration.
This is a work in progress. Much of the work so far has been processing the actual data: figuring out how to get the data, determining the format, cleaning the data, and creating output that could be plotted.
Data were pulled from FamilySearch. The data have not been completely verified, and so there may be inaccuracies and missing data. The FamilySearch database is constantly being researched and updated by users.
To prepare the data, I followed these steps:
1. Download the data
I used the free version of Legacy Family Tree to download the data from FamilySearch.
2. Export data to GEDCOM
After downloading the data, I used another utility within Legacy Family Tree to export the data as a GEDCOM file (a standard data format for genealogical data).
3. Convert GEDCOM to CSV
To convert the data from GEDCOM to CSV, I used the Oxy-Gen GEDCOM converter.
4. Clean the data
Some of the cleaning tasks that I had to do were
After the CSV data file was in a usable state, I loaded it to kepler.gl and created the plot.
This project is ongoing. Future work that I have in mind includes plotting my mother's and father's branches separately in different colors, animating the plot to show migration over time, and making the plot interactive.
I also investigated other methods for creating arc plots that used ggplot or Tableau. For my purposes, kepler.gl was the most convenient, but I'm including these options for anyone who wants to use a different tool:
Creating Route Maps in R with ggplot2
How to map connections with great circles
Flow map in R using ggplot2
Use R to map flight routes onto a fancy world-map background
Different Ways to Map Paths in Tableau
The inspiration for these visualizations came from a presentation by Carni Klirs to the Washington DC Data Visualization Meetup group. He presented his project Visualizing the History of Fugazi, which included an arc plot created with kepler.gl.