29 August 2017

Share Your Family Tree Names in a Word Cloud

So you think you know the main ancestral last names in your family tree, right?

You may be way off! There is a way you can visualize which family names are making up the majority of your family tree.

Recently I've seen a word cloud floating around that shows the most common last names in each of the regions of Italy. It's plain to see that Russo and Rossi are the most common Italian names throughout the country.

What about your family tree?

you can create a word cloud from your family tree
A word cloud shows the frequency of names in your family tree.
I created this tree-shaped word cloud using only names from my grandfather's hometown of Baselice, Italy. My Baselice Family Tree Maker file has more than 16,000 people, and this required a lot of manual editing. To save a few days, I'm showing only the last names of people whose first name begins with A. That's 3,355 people!

Ironically, the biggest names I see are not closely related to me.

You should know that because of intermarrying, I am related to roughly 13,000 of the 16,000 people in my file.

Even more surprising is that I can spot the names of in-laws, like Pallotta at the base of the tree and Borrillo at the base of the leaves.

Oh! And there's a tiny Pilla in the center. That's a name from my other grandfather's family!

To create your word cloud, you need a text file of just the last names. I exported a GEDCOM file, pasted it into a spreadsheet, and kept whittling it down with search and replace. Then go to https://www.wordclouds.com:
  • Click the "Word list" button.
  • Click the "Paste/Type text" link near the top.
  • Copy and paste your list of names and click the "Apply" button.
When your word cloud is created, use the different buttons to change the shape, colors, spacing, and font.

When you're happy with your results, click the "File" button and choose how you'd like to save your family tree word cloud. Then share yours on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #familytreenames.


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