Fiction and Family Trees


Family, as I’ve written before, is one of my passions. One of the ways that manifests itself is my ongoing absorption in that 21st century form of ancestry worship, genealogy. History and family are tightly linked in my mind and in my writing. I never met a clue about an ancestor I didn’t want to chase.

House_of_ROMANOV-tree-fr-300x267 Author's Blog But First Coffee

The Romanovs—few dates and no titles

In the process of writing six novels and three novellas and some short stories, I managed to create a crowd of interconnected—and interrelated—characters. The current series, Children of Empire, for example includes two brothers and their cousin who first appeared with their parents and siblings in A Dangerous Nativity. The heroine of The Unexpected Wife, for another example, first appeared with her parents and siblings in Dangerous Weakness. The families are close friends and many of them appear in some or all of the books in both the Dangerous and the Children of Empire series.

They get confusing, Don’t they? Ever eager to help clarify things for my readers, I set out to apply skills and tools from my ancestor worship—er, genealogical research—to create charts that will help. The idea came up again recently. Surely there must be tools for creating the charts I need! Maybe, but I haven’t found useful ones yet.

Stamboom_Lepidus-254x300 Author's Blog But First Coffee

A Descendant Chart

So far all I have to show for it are speed bumps. Some of the problems I’ve encountered are:

  • Most computer based family tree makers default to ancestry or pedigree charts. They assume you want to begin with one individual and trace his or her ancestry backward through the ages. They are often meant to be read bottom up.
  • To be useful in showing fictional relationships I need a descendant chart. That sort of chart begins with a couple and traces their descendants forward through the ages. They are often meant to be read top down.
  • Few of the online family tree products I looked at printed charts. (I now know ancestry has a print partner, but their options for descendant charts are minimal and inflexible.
  • The ones that did print didn’t necessarily give me the file formats I needed to post to my website.
  • Organizational chart software looked interesting, but it didn’t have the layers and connections I needed.
  • Most tools don’t have fields that adapt well to titles and fictional locations.
  • Showing relationships between the descendants of two families on one chart requires either repetition or very complicated connecting lines, if you can manage it at all.

And so it goes. I’m confident I can work this out. After all, I could name some best selling authors who have family descendant charts in the front of their works. I suspect they have assistants or publication houses with graphics departments willing to tackle the project. I don’t, but if I ever manage to find the huge outlay of time it will take, I’m going to do it manually. For now it is just a gleam in my eye. If anyone has any ideas, I’d welcome them.

cup-of-coffee-300x202 Author's Blog But First Coffee It won’t be this week. Notes and comments from the kind beta readers who read The Unexpected Wife have filtered in, and I have to get serious about rewrites and edits to bring the manuscript in shape to hand it over to my editor. I have high hopes for this book. I think I’ve done well by my beloved Charles and won’t disappoint the readers who are waiting for his story. Time is fleeing to get this one done–tick tock, tick tock. If I get a moment, that made to order story I worked on last week is about finished and I’ll have to stop and review the print proof. In addition, this week as all weeks, Life will intervene. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I best get busy. But first, coffee.

One thought on “Fiction and Family Trees

  1. A women after my own heart – genealogist and history lover turned writer, like me.
    I got my clever editor (with software I don’t have) to make my family tree images for the front of books. Good luck.

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