Tag Archives: Data visualization

The Name Game

Does anyone remember word clouds? Word clouds—also known as tag clouds—were popular from mid-2000s to around the early 2010s. (At least, I remember them being heavily featured in a “History and New Media” class I took in college.) They are visual representations of textual data, wherein the size and sometimes color of each word or tag represents the frequency of that word within a specific text.

For a while now, I’ve been interested in how I might be able to visualize data from my family tree in the form of a word cloud. In particular, as someone with a lifelong fascination with given names, I was curious what a name-based word cloud using data from my family tree would look like. What were the most common given names in my tree?

To answer this, I used a couple of different tools. I started with my RootsMagic software program, generating a custom report that had only two columns: Surname and Given Name. I opened this report as a basic text file and then transferred that data to an Excel spreadsheet. From there, I deleted the Surname column, as I was purely interested in given names. From there, all I had to do was find a free word cloud program to upload my data to. In retrospect, I could have generated a list of just given names from the start and saved myself one step, and may have even been able to feed the basic text file into a word cloud generator.

I tried two different platforms, both of which were freely available online. The first was the aptly-named FreeWordCloudGenerator. I imported my data as a .csv file and asked it to visualize the top 95 words (in this case, names). This program also let me pick a color palette and font, which was fun but not entirely necessary for this exercise.

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