Monday, March 6, 2017
Don't Fall Into the Fan Chart Trap
This graphic representation of family relationships is referred to as a "fan chart." It has been some considerable time since I wrote about fan charts. The reason for this is that I am not a fan of fan charts. I have several reasons for this antipathy. The main one being that this particular graphic representation of the family relationships confers validity to the people depicted and directs the user's attention to the "missing" individuals.
In the example above, there are several obvious spaces where the lines end. Because this particular fan chart comes from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, it is the results of over a hundred years of contributions from generations of researchers. Here an end of line is an end. No one for a considerable period of time has yet discovered the identity of the missing individuals. But more seriously, there is nothing here that encourages the researcher to question the validity of the names that do appear.
Only one or two of the lines have any substantial supporting documentation. Of course, the person using this graphic form may be well aware of its limitations, but this not the usual case. You might make the same argument about any graphical portrayal of family lines in the form of a pedigree, but my own experience indicates that this form is more popular among those who have not spent the time to verify the contents. Now, before you write a comment defending your preference for fan charts, please understand that this is my opinion and you may certainly differ if you wish to do so.
Some of the inadequacies of the fan chart are shared by all of the other possible graphic representations of family relationships. Most families are not nearly so simple as their graphic representations might indicate.
One particularly unfortunate use of fan charts involves using them to establish a point at which to begin descendency research for the purpose of finding available ordinance work for the temple. If you are assuming that the information shown is correct without spending any effort to evaluate and verify the connections shown, then you may not actually be related to the people shown. This is the trap and the reason I am not a fan of fan charts.