This week I am sharing another research tool that helps me determine where to focus my research. It’s called a Fan Chart because it resembles a fan. And it quickly destroyed my belief that all my family’s research was done!
A Fan Chart is a simple and colorful way of looking at our family tree. Most of us are used to trees that start with one person at the bottom (or on the left side) and have branches growing up (or to the right). First there are two branches, then four, then eight, etc as we go back through the generations. These types of trees - called portrait or landscape - can show only direct lines. But they usually get more complicated as children are included through the generations.
Here is a portrait view of my family tree (a screen shot from familysearch.org)
You can see how the screen quickly fills up as each individual takes up space. I can only choose to see one branch of my tree at a time for any generation past my great-grandparents. I also get a false sense of completion as this is all filled in.
But when I use a fan chart version of my tree, I can easily see back to my 4th great-grandparents and all at the same time. Here’s what that looks like, also taken as a screen shot from familysearch.org.
Do you see what I see?!? People are missing! I have a hole in the great-great-great-grandparent generations. And I have plenty of wasteland in the great-great-great-greats!
This truly surprised me because I knew my father had spent years researching my family. He’s even published a book on his mother’s ancestry. It does, however, give me direction And on how to focus my research.
So what is my CHALLENGE? To identify the maternal grandparents of Rebecca Melinda Cooper, who was fondly called “Da” by her grandchildren. Her mother, Christina Shoffner, is from North or South Carolina and lived from about 1812-1860. And that’s where the trail ends.
Rebecca Melinda Cooper (Brooks)