What is GeneaSpy?

GeneaSpy is an avid genealogist who attends national, regional, and local genealogical conferences, to learn about genealogy.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Little Thing That Went Viral... #MyColorfulAncestry

The other day I created a 5-generation colorful spreadsheet using Excel that literally went viral on social media the last few days. I saw hundreds of charts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and blogs. A lot of them were my friends, but then I started seeing friends of friends, and their friends.

 It all started with an idea that popped into my head (from the GeneaGods) late Wednesday afternoon, 23 March 2016, while I was at my desk at work. I wanted to see a family tree pedigree chart that listed ONLY the birth places. I decided also just to list US states (or countries), not counties or towns. Then I thought, why not color code those states so I can visually tell them apart more easily at a glance. And voilĂ !

 I posted my chart on my Facebook feed and it immediately started to get “likes”. I then thought, why don’t I send my excel spreadsheet to my Dropbox account and make a public link and share it. Then, people could make their own charts. To my surprise, not only did they do that, but they also “tagged me” and thanked me for the idea. That’s when more and more people started to see these charts and more and more people joined in.

 By Thursday morning until noon, it literally went viral. All day Thursday and then all day Friday. I checked Twitter feeds and saw them, I checked Instagram and saw them, I checked G+ and saw them. What have I created! Such a small simplistic chart with just a small tweak of information from what you usually see. I believe the simple colorful chart and the DIY link just made it irresistible to people.

 Then, friends started elaborating the idea, adding a 6th. generation, like DearMYRTLE’s post. I saw even more generations being added, even an hour glass chart by a gay couple showing both sides of their families. Jay Fonkert added flags! Meagan Smolenyak Smolenyak reminded me about her “cause of death” chart from a blog post way back in 2013 that she said she got from Judy G. Russell’s post, who in turn got it from a post by FamilySearch blogger, Nathan Murphy. Another viral chart!

 This was great! I like how friends were coming up with all kinds of new ways to use this! Friends were talking to each other about their ancestry and asking questions, me included! Every time I saw Alabama mentioned I would ask that person, where in Alabama are you researching? The conversation between people was so inspiring.

Viral messages and friend requests on Facebook.

 As of late Friday, I have added 95 new Facebook friends and several Twitter and Instagram friends. Some people were asking me what’s next? Who knows, but I do have some ideas. But, this was truly an irregularity in the social GeneaSphere which I think won’t be seen again for a while.

A special thank you to Crista Cowan of Ancestry.com for the special hash tag #MyColorfulAncestry. She said if everyone used it when all this started, we probably would have trended on Facebook. Wow!

 There is too many people to list and I gave up on counting all the posts, but I will list a few friends that have posted their charts across some social platforms.

Too many.


@genealogyisfun (Jana Last)
@ChrisMPaton (Chris Paton)
@genkracke (Timo Kracke)
@HVSresearch (Helen V Smith)
@GenealogyLadyCA (Deborah Sweeney)
@leprchaunrabbitt (Sir Leprechaunrabbit)
@CarolinaGirlGen (Cheri Hudson Passey)
@Lonetester (Alona Tester)
@ancestryjourney (Jen Baldwin)
@fh_data_project (DM_Walsh)
@AncestryAnne (Ancestry Anne)
@rjseaver (Randy Seaver)

Darcie Posz
Jill Ball
Jana Last
Cheryl Palmer
Elizabeth Handler
Miriam J. Robbins


And much, much more!!!

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Link to a blank spreadsheet: https://bit.ly/3dvsbkK


  1. Paul, I enjoyed looking at all of the colorful charts. That prompted me to check out your Blog. Which in turn reminded me that I could add your blog to my Feedly account. It's fun following you on Facebook too.

  2. This is pretty neat. So simple that one might smack themselves for not thinking of it themselves. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Allie! Yes, simplicity is what made it cool. So many variations on it out there are now taking shape.

  3. What the chart reinforced for me was just how unremarkable my ancestry is. When the chart first went viral, I was amazed at the variety of colors I was seeing in each chart. I have no ancestors who were not already living in America before the American Revolution and even going back 7 generations, only 4 states are represented. On 2nd thought, maybe that's what's remarkable!

    1. That just shows how deep your ancestry is in America! I only have one immigrant who came after the revolution. I too have deep roots here. Glad you like the chart.

  4. Paul, I made a similar chart to track disease and cause of death of my ancestors. Maybe that could be a future endeavor for you. I have not checked to see if one already exists somewhere.

    1. Very cool indeed! Yes, I have heard of that and did one myself a few weeks ago. Luckily, Texas has death certificates online at Fold3, that's where a lot of my family lived.

  5. This was fun, even though almost my whole tree was from Utah and then England!

    It was fun to see you last week!

    1. It was nice to see you again, Jessica! Thank you and Kate Eakman at LegacyTree Genealogist for looking into my brick wall, it really helped!

  6. I am sad. Meant to get it when I saw it originally and now it is gone?

    1. The link is still active. Just click on it above and save it to your computer. Then you can change the colors and place names to fit your family.

  7. Paul, thanks for putting this idea in my head. You can "admire" the Dutch version here: http://patmcast.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-geographical-pedigree-chart.html

    1. Thanks, Peter! I love your chart! I just learned that I probably have some Dutch ancestors that came over to New Amsterdam by the name of Loper.

    2. On your Loper ancestors, one of the largest Dutch databases shows some 136 records for (de) Loper! This number includes 12 records for Lopers that left here for NYC in the 17th century. Do you happen to know more details such as dates, first names etc?
      Another thing is that I also have a blog post showing a survey of foreign genealogical blogs/sites showing Dutch origin surnames. The URL is http://www.patmcast.blogspot.com/2012/05/dutch-ancestors.html. The idea is to try and establish contacts between people who have an interest in the same surname. There are numerous cases in The Netherlands where people emigrated centuries ago without leaving a trace in Dutch archives. With my blog I try to bring Dutch and foreign (mainly US/CAN) genealogists together.
      Therefore, I like to have your permission to show your site in my a.m. blog and mention the Loper surname.

    3. Yes, you have my permission. I haven't really researched that line of my Loper family, but what I gathered from a quick search of public trees is that I'm related to a Jacobus Loper, B. abt. 1616 in Stockholm, Sweden and died abt. 1652 in New Amsterdam. He married Cornelia VanMyert Melyn. She was born 27 FEB 1628 • Holland, Reusel-de Mierden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands.

  8. Thanks Paul for your permission. On your Loper ancestors, please see https://www.wiewaswie.nl/en/home/ and punch in Loper in the blue box. I bet you see some familiair names! On people born in Reusel-de Mierden please read this: http://www.dutchgenealogy.nl/?s=Reusel and you'll see it is an unlikely birth place.

  9. Absolutely fantastic Paul! I guess I must wait till I can afford to do the DNA tests. My family info is so LITTLE that it's heartbreaking. Surnames of interest to me are STRAUTINS (need to add the doodahs under the "N" and above the "S", DRUGIS (this has a comma under the "G" and my research can't find anything much on this surname in Latvia. My paternal grandmother was Kristine DRUGIS before marriage to Janis STRAUTINS. My dad was born in 1909 in Riga, Latvia.) My mother's grandmother was Anna VEZITIS before marriage. Cannot find a single reference to this name. Anyone out there who can help? Email: ilzicoom@yahoo.com.au

    1. Glad you liked it, Ilzi. Good luck with your genealogy... It's fun!

  10. Where can I access a blank form for your idea of a custom colorized Places/Dates EXCEL chart for one's lineage? It's a great idea, but I was hoping I would not have to create my own, but rather customize an existing 6-generation chart. You mention it's possible but I could not get your chart to allow me to customize it with my own places and colors.

    1. Cathy, when you click on my Dropbox link above, just download it to your computer, then you can save it and change it. Hope that makes since.

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