Nov 30

9 Generation Fan Chart

By David Scifres Genealogy Comments Off on 9 Generation Fan Chart

This ancestory visualization uses  a couple additional pieces of software that  integrate with You’ll need to buy Family Tree Maker 2010 and Charting Companion for Family Tree Maker in order to pull this one off in addition to some photoshop chops. I had to bring my fan and Caroline’s Fan chart both into Photoshop and combine them there in order to get this chart to look the way it does. This should obviously be an option in the software but for now that doesn’t exist.

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Aug 09

Dunster Castle (aka Luttrell Castle)

By David Scifres Genealogy, Photos Comments Off on Dunster Castle (aka Luttrell Castle)

Dunster Castle is the historical home of the Luttrell family located in the small town of Dunster, Somerset, England. Colonel Sir Walter Luttrell gave Dunster Castle and the greater part of its contents to the National Trust in 1976. There has been a castle at the top of the hill at Dunster for more than 1,000 years. The Domesday Book records one on this location before 1066. The castle was granted by William the Conqueror to William de Mohun, whose family lived there until the castle was sold in 1376 by Lady Joan de Mohun to Lady Elizabeth Luttrell. Lady Elizabeth’s descendants owned Dunster Castle until 1976.

The castle dominates a steep hill overlooking the picturesque village of Dunster. The hill has been fortified since Saxon times, although nothing now remains of these early defenses. During the early medieval period the sea reached the base of the hill offering a natural defense, and strong walls, towers, ramparts and outworks protected the other sides. By the 15th century the sea had receded and the Luttrells created the deer park. When Sir George Luttrell inherited in 1571, the castle was dilapidated and the family were living elsewhere. In 1617, Sir George employed the architect, William Arnold, to erect a new house in the lower ward of the castle. During the Civil War, Dunster was a Royalist stronghold under the command of Colonel Wyndham. In November 1645 Parliamentary forces started a siege which lasted until an honorable surrender of the castle in April 1646. Dunster shared the fate of many other Royalist castles and had its defenses demolished to prevent any further use against Parliament. All that now remains of the medieval fortifications are the impressive gatehouse and the stumps of two towers.

The house was modified and developed over the following centuries, and much of the current appearance dates from the 18th century when the park was landscaped and the Green Court, terraced grounds and follies were created. Much of the furniture in the house also dates from this period.

Links Related to Luttrell Family and Dunster Castle

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Jul 20

Visualization of North American Colonization (1750-2008)

By David Scifres Books, Genealogy Comments Off on Visualization of North American Colonization (1750-2008)

This is a great visualization of the colonization and occupation of North America from 1750-2008 by Non-Native Americans. I found this graphic while doing ancestral research on wikipedia. It does a fantastic job cycling you through 79 frames that show how North America was colonized and by whom and when. It is a shame you can show this in a book, perhaps eBooks will one day support this sort of thing.

Feb 01

“Afloat on the Ohio” by Reuben Gold Thwaites

By David Scifres Books, Genealogy, Photography, Photos Comments Off on “Afloat on the Ohio” by Reuben Gold Thwaites

Pilgrims on The Ohio” was published in 1997 over a century after Ruben Twaites river trip and features a never before published personal collection of photographs taken on the journey in 1894. The book includes 74 photographs from the trip as well as his narrative descriptions of the images and page references to his journal. Also included are essays by Reid and Fuller discussing Thwaites’ life and the development and influence of the Kodak #2 in the history of photography.

Thwarts personal journal from the same trip is entitled: Afloat on the Ohio by Reuben Gold Thwaites. One of the things Thwaites does in his journal is describe the journey in context of what the early pioneers were experiencing. I am particularly interested in these photographs and his journal writings because my 4xGreat Grand father migrated from either Redding, Wheeling or Pittsburg on a flat boat (or raft) in 1798 (almost 100 years prior to Thwaites journey). I was hoping reading this text might give me some perspective into what it might have been like.

In the spring and summer of 1894, Reuben Gold Thwaites (noted American historian and Society Director), traveled with his family down the Monongahela and Ohio rivers, taking photos all the way. Thwaites’ photographs of the six-week trip offer a unique opportunity to take a glimpse into the gateway to the nation’s interior.

Thwaites used a #2 Kodak camera to take the circular black-and-white images. Thwaites was an early adopter of the Kodak #2 camera, purchasing one in 1891 to document his travels on a bicycle through England. This particular Kodak model, introduced in 1889, was one of the first cameras designed with the amateur in mind. It replaced the heavy, cumbersome glass plate with flexible film on a long roll. Photographers could shoot the entire roll and then send the camera into Kodak to have the film developed and prints made. It was from this generation of camera that Eastman Kodak coined the slogan, “You push the button, we do the rest.”

Afloat on the Ohio by Reuben Gold Thwaites (PDF)
Afloat on the Ohio by Reuben Gold Thwaites (Full Text and other versions)

Some of the photos below were taken in Cannelton, Bridgport and Owensboro, which are all near where my ancestors eventually settled some time around 1810. They first spent about 12 years in Bridgeport Kentucky area which is couple miles outside th of Frankfort.

Get the flash player here:

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Jan 28

Print On Demand Books –

By David Scifres Genealogy Comments Off on Print On Demand Books –

I’ve been doing Genealogical research for the a while now and one of the best resources I have found are rare out of print books that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg and And even with those resources, you may not be able to find a digital copy. Suppose you want a real hard back copy? Many of these books are extremely hard to find and are only available in reference sections of a few libraries. In some instances you might get lucky and find them at rare book stores or used book aggregation sites, like,, or But in these cases they will likely cost hundreds of dollars. And in many circumstances, you are simply out of luck.

Enter and their start-up division They have combined specialized book scanning equipment that they sell with partnerships with some of the biggest libraries in the country, like the New York Public Library and University of Pennsylvania Library to offer nearly 1,000,000 titles. Check out the video below explaining what they do.

I ordered 4 books from them recently and I am simply astounded at the quality of the product I received for the money. Two of the books I ordered they already had digitized, the other to were digitized for me. Somebody at the New York library pulled the books, scanned them and then sent them to They, in turn, had them printed and hard bound for my order. 3 Weeks later I had my own beautify hard bound copies of books I could have affordability owned no other way. I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real. The books cost me $20 each when I ordered them. They have since raised the price to $28 each.

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Jan 23

Genealogy Visualizations

By David Scifres Genealogy Comments Off on Genealogy Visualizations

As many of you know, I have spent a good portion of my spare time over the last 6 months doing research on Caroline’s and my family history. I’ve enjoyed this so much and discovered many interesting things that would have otherwise remained unknown to me. This project has been exciting because it involves many things I love, like my family, research, travel, software, visualizations, story telling, graphic design and layout, and more. I’ve used for 4 years now to produce annual family albums as a print on demand service and am looking forward to using it to produce an extensive book on our families history.

I’ve also discovered an amazing new service called They have access to around 1,000,000 out of print copyright free publications that they can print on demand. I’ve been able to find and have printed books from the 1800’s that would have cost $100 to $400 for original copies but instead only cost $20 each. Wow! Gutenberg would have been blow away.  I ordered 4 books from them at Christmas and I am amazed by the quality of their product that I received. They actually had somebody pull the book from the shelf at the New York Library, scan the entire book (on one of the proprietary machines they sell) and then print, bind (hardback no less) and ship it to me in less than 3 weeks. I’ll post some pics of the end result of their work later.

Below are a couple of the more interesting visualizations I have produced thus far.

This one is from and is linked directly from Over all, the entire process was extremely easy and straight froward.

The next visualization uses  a couple additional pieces of software that also integrate with You’ll need to buy Family Tree Maker 2010 and Charting Companion for Family Tree Maker in order to pull this one off. I had to bring my fan and Caroline’s Fan chart both into Photoshop and combine them there in order to get this chart to look the way it does. This should obviously be an option in the software.

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