Fictional Genealogies

I’ve always been the type of writer who is deeply invested in her characters; so much so that I turned what was intended as a standalone book into a series of deep, intricate, and complex families that are as much defined by their histories as their individual personalities. Every time I sit down to write, these histories and connections only continue to grow.

I started work awhile ago on lineages and family trees for the Sullivans and Deschanels. Naturally, this requires a certain degree of organization, as the deeper you go, the less useful standard files and note taking becomes. I needed a logical, linear way to view each member of the family and their relation to the other members, as well as a quick glance at dates of birth, death, and other pertinent details.

I looked into various free and not-free family tree softwares, and while a lot of them looked like great programs, they were built for…well, real people. The features were elaborate and far more than I needed. What I wanted was a very simple viewpoint that showed me just the basics: names, lineage, and dates. This was when I found Family Echo.

Family Echo is a website that allows you to do all the work (and save it) online, and in the most basic format that is incredibly simple to use. In fact, there is almost no learning curve at all. You can enter names, dates, and other minor biographical details like places of birth. It allows for multiple parents and same-sex marriages, and also recognizes the nature of a relationship. You can toggle different views to where you can only see names, or you can add dates, years, middle names, maiden names, and other information. And best of all, the view is incredibly simple, so that when I need to use it as a reference, its quick and easy. And if you end up wanting to take your work to another program, it allows multiple options for export, including gedcom. In fact, the only issue I’ve had with it is that it doesn’t deal well with incestuous relationships (insert clutching of pearls here). I also wish it could give a view of the entire family in one view, but I don’t think any software can accommodate that in a meaningful way once you have a big family.

I currently have over 150 entries in my file, and I expect to have three or four times that in the next few months. So far I haven’t seen any reason to believe the site can’t handle it.

Family Echo has turned out to be one the most-used and most-useful programs in my writing toolbox. If you’re building an empire, and need a quick and easy way to track all of it, I highly recommend this website.

Here’s a glimpse at what the interface looks like:

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 6

Note: This is a Free Will review, written for the intentions of best practices sharing with fellow writers. I am not affiliated with Family Echo in any way.

8 thoughts on “Fictional Genealogies

    1. Yes, I know all about the mounds of sticky notes! This site has literally been a life saver for me…I think the next step will be transferring over the biographies so I can run reports against it.

  1. I had no idea that such a place existed that was free! I have notebooks and taped-together diagrams of all of my characters’ families and such. You’re a life-saver! Thank you so much!

    1. Awesome! Glad to know that this was helpful for you…I had no idea it existed either and when I stumbled across it, it was like hitting an author’s goldmine 🙂

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