Holiday Families

An interesting pair of infographics have been floating around social media this holiday season. They both show the same thing, but from different perspectives. They are both charts that help you untangle near and distant family relationships. What is a 2nd cousin once removed anyway?

My favorite of the two is this one, mainly because it is easier to read, it has that handy “your are here” hacker chart Click the image and it will take you the the article on LifeHacker. But to give you a quick run down… your first cousin once removed is your parent’s cousin. And their kids would be your 2nd cousin.

Another chart covering the same material is also available on FlowingData. Here it’s not immediately obvious where to start but the article at FlowingData describes it nicely. Say, for example you find yourself sitting at a holiday table next to someone and you both realize that the person sitting at the head of the table is the first common ancestor you both share. If you are the grand-child and your table neighbor is the great grand child of that common ancestor then you look up where “grandchild” and “great grandchild” intersect in the chart and voila… first cousin once removed.
flowing data chart
It’s a little hard to read at this scale, but just click it and you’ll be taken to the FlowingData site.

What I find interesting about these is the comparison between the two. The FlowingData version strikes me as a general research tool, useful to explore family relationships independent of where you are. To me, it’s a bit reminiscent of the train schedule chart in Tufte’s books… there’s no “you are here” because the chart is for everyone. In contrast the “you are here” icon in the LifeHacker chart makes it a lot easier to read and additionally makes it easier for you (at least) to follow the full chain of relatives (from your point of view) between you and your holiday table neighbor.

So often infographics are viewed as a panacea… the world would be a better place if there was just an infographic describing such and such. But frequently there is no such thing as a single best infographic to describe a situation… the raw underlying information between these graphs are exactly the same, but what works for one person may not work for another and what works for one circumstance may not work for another.

Note, I’ve used the term “holiday” dinner because I personally was thinking either/both Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it has the fortunate side effect of being neutral to all the other secular and religious holidays in the November, December (and January?) time frame. Happy Holidays!


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