Yesterday morning I was thinking about sparklines and how they might be used in genealogy, and after a few quick sketches I came up with this:

Sparklines

Here’s how it works for individuals: the first black dot is their birth. Each pixel is one year. The final dot is their death. Any middle dots are the person’s marriage(s). It’s nice because you can see at a glance how long they lived (in comparison to others), whether they married early or late (and how many times), and so on.

For families, the first dot is the marriage year. The last is the year the second parent died or a divorce year, whichever comes first. Any dots in between are children. Again, it provides a lot of information in a small space — how long they were married, how many children and how they were spaced, etc.

I originally thought of using different colors for the various dots (you can see a glimmer of this in the family sparkline for Tom & Jane Smith), but I’m now thinking it’d be better to leave them monochromatic so that they can still carry all the information when printed/displayed in black and white. (The line could be black instead of grey, of course.) Once the rules are understood (what each dot means), there’s no need for colors to differentiate them.

You could also use these when writing family histories:

Sparklines 2

If including them inline isn’t your style, you could always use footnotes or sidenotes:

Sparklines 3

I’m in the middle of figuring out if there’s a good, compact way to represent one’s ancestors via sparklines. I’ll post again if I come up with anything. Oh, and I haven’t written any code to generate these genealogy sparklines yet, but soon…

Any thoughts?