Posts Tagged visualization

Final draft Visualization – Part 2

Mar 31st, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »


YOU MUST READ THE PART ONE RECAP FIRST so you know where I am going with things.


A screen shot is a little harder for this one, so it’s best to just VISIT THE LINK. and poke around but here’s the idea:


Mad River Cemeteries Google Maps final draft


When you click on a marker, it will give you the lat/long (in some cases, and they are noted, I had to approximate the location based on directions given so some may not be exactly right – I welcome any corrections, please comment) and other information such as whether it is still there, how many burials if known, condition, etc.  There are only three cemeteries still in use today – Myrtle Tree, Nettle Creek, and Terre Haute. Myrtle Tree and Nettle Creek also had churches associated with them. (So did many of the family cemeteries including Shaffer and Zerkle, but that is for another project.)


I had a little fun with the markers, don’t hold it against me. I did color code Shaffer, Zerkle, and Terre Haute to correspond with my NodeXL relationship charts.
And that brings me to the NodeXL charts I created.

Cemetery Groups Shaffer Cemetery

Cemetery Groups Shaffer Cemetery


Cemetery Groups Zerkle Cemetery 2

Cemetery Groups Zerkle Cemetery




























The above two NodeXL charts show the relationships between the people in each cemetery (connections) and where they are buried (color). Corresponding colors in each indicate which families are related. As I said before in my first test, these won’t work for a larger data set so that is why I didn’t include one for Terre Haute. It is the largest cemetery and there is no way I could represent it in a NodeXL file. You can see some of the relations are indicated above in Orange.



Zerkle Cemetery Families

Zerkle Cemetery Families

Shaffer Cemetery Families

Shaffer Cemetery Families




























The two NodeXL charts above show the relationships between the people buried in the cemetery and between those buried across the cemeteries. The colors indicate relationships. You can see the two largest families are the George and Catherine (Roush) Zirkle families (indicated by aqua) and the Abraham and Margaret (Maurer) Zirkle families (indicated in blue – not exactly the same color blue, oops. It’s a royal blue in the Shaffer cemetery and a dark blue in the Zerkle cemetery). Incidentally, George and Abraham were brothers.


Cemetery Cluster Zerkle Cemetery

Cemetery Cluster Zerkle Cemetery


The above cluster was just something I used in the analyzation section of NodeXL. I love how it came out but I don’t know how I did it. It shows the different family relations in the Zerkle cemetery. The program chose the colors, so they really don’t indicate anything other than a family relationship. I tried to repeat it in the Shaffer cemetery but couldn’t. You can see how this would never work for a larger data set, it’s almost too much here.

So there we go. I’ve visualized until my eyes were ready to pop out. I welcome feedback. If anyone can tell me how to do a relationship chart for a really BIG set of data, please let me know!



Cemetery Visualization Test #2

Mar 29th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

I’ve been playing around with NodeXL and trying to see what would work the best. (See here for test #1)

So this time I thought I would try to show the relationships between the people buried in two cemeteries, Shaffer and Zerkle, in Mad River township, Champaign county, OH. If that worked, I could continue to add cemeteries until I had the whole township’s relationships plotted. I started with the Shaffer cemetery database I created.

Four issues occurred:
1) I first realized that in order to relate this to the much larger project (that being a cemetery database and website that I am currently formulating and just have ideas about so can’t share much yet), I needed to use the information (names and relationships) solely from and not any of the other resources I had used to compile my list. It had to be the crowd-sourced information.  So that is what I used.
(2) I realized I could not be true to the actual name as it is spelled on each headstone, otherwise the information wouldn’t graph properly. So I had to standardize a little. (For example, Abraham Zerkel is spelled that way on his headstone, but his wife Margaret’s stone says she is wife of Abraham Zirkle. If I showed their relationship that way, the program would think I had two different Abrahams.) I also had to change some surname spellings due to duplicates. Jacob, Jonathan, and Michael all had same surname spellings for multiple different people. I did the best I could but I had to make sure the relationships graphed properly.
(3) I saved it as a TIFF file and used Paint to add the legend and a title. I learned that you cannot upload a TIFF file to WordPress. Frustrating! I had to convert it to JPEG so I didn’t have to re-do the legend that I made.
(4) And lastly, as you can see I only graphed the Shaffer cemetery. Why? Because if I did more than one, you’d never be able to read it. You can barely read this graph as it is! NodeXL is kind of frustrating in that I can’t share this on the web so that it is interactive. I had to save it as a Tiff file and post it here. Looking at it in NodeXL itself I can click on each node and it will highlight the relationship line so that you can see just everyone that person is related to. But even that on the tiny laptop screen was hard to see, so I know I need to make some small tweaks to this but I can barely see it. I already noticed that at first I had some duplicated names and I couldn’t figure out why (George Stange Jr was there twice – why? because in one field I’d put in George Stange Jr. and the other was George Stange Jr — details!!!)
Shaffer Cemetery NodeXL

So although I am scrapping this idea, I did learn a couple of things that are relevant to my genealogy research, though perhaps not this project.

On to test number three…which I hope is the last! Please comment if you have any suggestions or anything you’d like to add.

Musings and questions surrounding my cemetery visualization project

Mar 20th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

I am still trying to get my database updated with all the information I can find on the cemeteries in Mad River township, Champaign, Ohio. What I am trying to do is figure out how cemeteries change over time, and with this I want to know how they reflect the change in the town’s own identity. For example, the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries included burials until 1883. What happened in 1883? What I suspect happened – and I am not sure yet as I am still gathering that information – is twofold: the family no longer owned the property (yes, according to the deed records the cemeteries were deeded to the Lutheran Church in St. Paris) and the city cemetery, Terre Haute, was built (not sure, I need to go there in person to look at their records). By comparing the number of family burial sites listed in the historic records to the number of family burial sites still in existence today, I can hopefully make some kind of statement about the changes in views on the importance of cemeteries. fits in here, it’s become such a huge resource for many people interested in finding their family information, yet you really aren’t necessarily always getting the right information. Ownership of the “memorial” becomes a contested area of family vs. other and there is no way to fix this within FAG’s TOS. What does that say about society’s current views on cemeteries? Is photographing our cemeteries a game or a serious attempt at virtual conservation? These are the kinds of questions I am trying to work through in this project.

Cemetery Visualization Project

Mar 16th, 2014 Posted in Public History, Shaffer and Zirkle Descendants | no comment »

Working on this visualization project I think I’ve stumbled on something interesting.

-In my database I have two cemeteries: Zerkle and Shaffer. They are named thusly per Google Maps. The story behind Shaffer is that a family member placed the sign there because it needed a name. I assume that’s why Google maps gives it that place name. I don’t know why the Zerkle cemetery is given that place name, other than because there are Zerkles (all spellings) buried there. But there are Zerkles (all spellings) also buried in Shaffer. That’s not a surprise, they are all intermarried into each other and the land all around both was once owned by Shaffers and Zerkles.

– My spreadsheet that I created shows the earliest burial in Shaffer was 1855, and latest was 1883. Zerkle was 1842 and last 1883.
– The current acreage that I was given by a Mad River Township Trustee was over an acre for Shaffer and just over a half acre for Zerkle.
– The 1874 map I have showing cemetery markings indicates a cemetery near where the current Google maps lists the Shaffer cemetery. Farther down, near where the current Google maps shows the Zerkle cemetery, is the Zerkle Lutheran church. But NO cemetery marker on the 1874 map. In 1874, the Zerkle Lutheran church was still there so it should be showing on the map.
– The deed I have a copy of from 1846 showing Abraham Zerkle deeded 1 acre to the Lutheran Church Trustees for a church and burial ground.
– The Shaffer Huston cemetery mentioned in a couple of sources does not exist anymore. The numbers of burials in the various records of Shaffer and Zerkle cemetery vary — much less in the pre-1950 literature available.

1) I think the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries are misnamed. Zerkle should be an acre or more.
2) Shaffer-Huston was moved into the “Shaffer” cemetery – hence why there are more burials than originally accounted for.
3) The earliest burial in the “Zerkle” cemetery was Elizabeth Shaffer. Another reason this was probably the family cemetery located on the Shaffer property not the Zerkle property. The Zerkle cemetery, attached to the Zerkle Lutheran Church didn’t exist until 1846-7.

Now, how do I show all this visually?! Other than the fun color-coded map I made myself using colored pens. :)

GIS and the Spatial Humanities

Feb 24th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

I’ve now read several chapters of The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship. I think my synopsis so far is that GIS is a tool to create narratives from deep mapping and spatial theory. The basic differences between the sciences and the humanities create the tension in the GIS debates. Science is concerned with hard facts and numbers. The Humanities are fluid, looking at the world around us and asking questions that may not be able to be answered. That would drive a scientist nuts. So deep mapping is the creation of more complex maps, that include the idea of place and envelopes a humanist’s work with things like texts and oral histories into a map experience. Spatial humanities looks at the big picture of time, space, place. Basically, maps are more than maps in the Spatial Humanities.


Fries worldmap 1522

World map of Laurent Fries, based on the Waldseemüller map of 1513. 
[Public domain, via WikiCommons - click map for source]

Ch.9, “GIS, e-science, and the Humanities Grid” focuses on the advent of e-science and some projects that reflect the difficulties in merging the humanities and science. The author discusses the three grids in e-science and their relevance to the Humanities: the access grid (cooperative, integrative, collaborative); the computational grid (computer skills required!); and the data grid (connecting online data sets and deep web linking — most useful for humanities work).  The author also discusses place-name difficulties in linking with e-science grids. Subject is always easy to use to retrieve data, but information retrieval by location and chronology is a lot harder and needs special tools such as GIS to help with the retrieval. He discusses a couple of projects (mostly in the UK) that are doing things like creating gazetteers (a sort of geographical dictionary) using census records. Where they fall short is in the data mining. But there is potential as long as humanists become more open minded. The future includes more development of the data grid to handle these sorts of projects, open standards that allow collaboration, and changing the mindset of humanists. GIS needs to move beyond a visualization tool and become a data tool to manage information.

Visualizing and Mapping Cemeteries

Feb 23rd, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

Initially I was agonizing over this project. I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to express it exactly (even after reading the first four chapters of The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship – Bodenhamer, David; John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris). I found a pay site called but since it’s pay for use, I couldn’t decide whether their format is useful or not for mapping cemeteries. Supposedly they have software you can use to map any cemetery. So that didn’t help with my idea, which follows:

Eventually this is something I’d like to do on a larger scale (meaning, lots and lots of cemeteries – a big project [as opposed to the definition of scale in GISci, referred to on p. 33 of the aforementioned book]), but I will start with three cemeteries that I have spent way too much time trying to analyze and understand from far away and using only the resources I can dig up online and here and there. They all reside within a few miles of each other in the township of Mad River, Champaign county, Ohio. Two are family cemeteries and have not had burials in over 100 years, and the third is still used today. My ancestors from this county are buried between the three. One is the Zerkle Cemetery, off Coffin Station Road and Thackery. (GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 40.0428363 and Longitude: -83.8979884) The next is about 1/2 mile away, the Shaffer Cemetery, same cross streets. (GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 40.0467251 and Longitude: -83.8849324) The final cemetery is the township cemetery, Terre Haute Cemetery, off Storms Creek/55. (GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 40.0522805 and Longitude: -83.8807657).

I have lists of burials from the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries from the DAR, the WPA, the Champaign County Genealogical Society, Find-a-Grave, BillionGraves, FamilySearch, US GenWeb, and probably other places. For Terre Haute, I haven’t spent much time on it. It is maintained by the Mad River Township Trustees, so I assume I can acquire a list from them. If not, I know there are several of the former sources that have a listing for Terre Haute, I’d just have to take into consideration the time frame the list is from, since there are still on-going burials in the cemetery. My idea is to create a database of all these lists that first reveals differences between the lists (who’s missing, etc); and then create a map of the location of each burial ~ which will reveal (hopefully) who is missing and where there are gaps in the burials.

I wasn’t sure how to do this but then I found a website discussing a 4-H project done in Iowa for a computer company to develop cemetery mapping software. (See here for the full story and pictures. ) The kids plotted the GPS coordinates and three months later found out that was not what the company wanted. They then had to go back and start over, with the help of their county GIS coordinator. They had to create shape files, use aerial photography, and it took them 5 years to complete the first section of the cemetery.

That being said, I realized my little Ohio project is not something that 1) I can accomplish before mid March or 2) that I can accomplish unless I physically go to Ohio., because in all these cemetery lists there are no designations or coordinates for the exact locations for the burials. So for this phase of the project, I need to pick a local cemetery. My first thought was the Pioneer Cemetery in Phoenix.  I know they have been taking photographs of their cemetery – they were doing that the last time I was there – but am not certain for what purpose. I guess I can get in touch with them and propose my idea. I think that I will have to take a much smaller piece to work with to get it done in time. But as far as what this will tell me, I really don’t know, as I am not familiar with the cemetery other than I’ve been there before. I don’t know what records they might have, or whether they’d even be interested in something like this.  Second choice, if they are not interested, I thought possibly of All Faiths Memorial Park in Tucson. This will be a little harder to do, due to distance, but I thought it might be interesting to map the Our Lady of the Desert mausoleum. I’m sure THAT has never been done! But I’m pretty sure I have no idea what that would tell me. I could create a virtual tour of the mausoleum though, it’s not very big. I at least would find that interesting, as my parents are buried there; not sure if anyone else would.

Anyway, I will hopefully be working on getting the Ohio version of this project off the ground over this summer. Wish me luck.