Blog post

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A colour coded longevity chart

As I said in my recent Facebook post, I love a good colour coded chart!

Colour coded birthplaces charts have been doing the rounds, sparked off by J Paul Hawthorne. I confess I didn’t see his original post – I understand the trees doing the rounds are mostly based on an Excel template he provided. He certainly added a lot of colour to my recent genealogy reading!

I have been using various sorts of visual cues in my charts for a very long time. I’ll say it again – I love a good colour coded chart! The ability to add visual cues to charts is one of my must-have genealogy software features. Family Historian has exceptional capabilities in this respect but, and it’s a big but, you need to be comfortable with functions and formulas to get the most from it. Fortunately, I eat functions and formulas for breakfast.

On this occasion I was further inspired by Pauleen Cass, who took the colour coded chart in a different direction and added Health Inheritance information to her chart.

I’ve created a longevity diagram scheme with a different colour for each decade of life attained, 90+ being the top age bracket. I picked a colour-blind safe set of colours from the Colorbrewer website with a deep red/orange for childhood deaths through to a deep blue for those aged 90+. I’ve used grey for living/no age at death information.

I would really like to have fewer yellow boxes and more deep blue boxes on my tree! The two orange boxes aren’t so much of a concern for my own personal wellbeing – I survived having my children and I’m not likely to be lost at sea.


The nice thing about having a diagram scheme set up within your genealogy software is that you can then use it to look at other parts of your tree with no fuss.

My ancestors Robert Mack and Jane Mercer lost too many young children. Looking at the three grey boxes below – Eliza would have been no more than 15 and the second Robert no more than 10. I have information that Alexander at least lived to early adulthood, but I don’t know what became of him after that. My ancestor Catherine with the palest of blue boxes looks suddenly quite robust compared to the rest of her family.


Although Family Historian diagram schemes involve some setting up, they can be easily shared among users. Download the scheme, double click to install. Easy.

I’m thinking of giving this diagram scheme a few more tweaks – perhaps to use age at death estimates so more of those I-know-they-must-be-red boxes will show as such, and contributing it to the Family Historian User Group website.


  1. Interesting to read your comments about Family Historian. Relatively Yours, is outdated and no longer supported but longevity details are part of a standard report. Thanks for the mention re my longevity post but I thought you idea of a decade-based colour was a great one...I was still in place mode ;) doing similar for births is also revealing.

  2. Thanks for the reference to my chart. I like how you used the color-blind safe set of colors. All my paternal uncles are color blind... I will show them and see what they think. Great chart!