Information on the web
Information on the web

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Information on the web

4.6 Lineage linked data

Earlier you saw how a genealogical database records relationships between people. A lineage linked database allows queries such as 'Ada Rosewell the daughter of John Rosewell' and makes possible the creation of family pedigrees and other charts. For example, the pedigree chart below shows how Alcimenes was the son of Jason (the Argonaut) and Medea and the grandson of Aeson and Alcimedes.

A family tree shown as a pedigree chart. This shows names in boxes with lines connecting a person to their father and mother. This forms a spreading tree but with the base at the left of the diagram and expanding to the right. Parents are shown to the right of their child, with the father always above and the mother below the child. Four generations are shown: the one person in the first generation is on the left and moving to the right there are two boxes for parents, followed by four grandparents and eight great grandparents. In this case the chart starts with Alcimenes whose father is Jason and mother Medea. Jason's father is Aeson whose parents in turn are Cretheus and Tyro. Jason's mother is Alcimedes; her parents are unknown. Medea's father is Aeetes I whose parents are Heleus and Antiope. Medea's mother is Idyia whose parents are not known
Family tree

Part of the family tree of Jason the Argonaut (from Graves, R. (1944) The Golden Fleece)

There is a widely used standard format (GEDCOM) for data files that describes genealogical trees such as this. GEDCOM format files can be exported and imported into all genealogical packages and make it easy to exchange genealogical information. You can see the GEDCOM encoding for the family tree by clicking on 'View document' below.

View document [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Activity 31

Using the above file structure, spend a few minutes identifying the features below.



Note how each individual has a record and is identified by a number. For example, the entry for Jason (I1) is:

  • 0 @I1@ INDI

  • 1 NAME Jason //

  • 1 SEX M

  • 1 FAMS @F1@

  • 1 FAMC @F2@

There are also references to families associated with Jason, F1 and F2. These can be found defined elsewhere in the file. F1 is Jason and Medea's family with their five children:

  • 0 @F1@ FAM

  • 1 HUSB @I1@

  • 1 WIFE @I2@

  • 1 CHIL @I3@

  • 1 CHIL @I4@

  • 1 CHIL @I5@

  • 1 CHIL @I6@

  • 1 CHIL @I7@

and F2 is the family consisting of Jason's parents and himself:

  • 0 @F2@ FAM

  • 1 HUSB @I8@

  • 1 WIFE @I9@

  • 1 CHIL @I1@

Notice how Jason, coded as I1, appears as the husband in family F1 and a child in family F2. These links trace out the lineages in the data; they make it possible to browse and search related individuals and draw charts such as the one above.

GEDCOM files are not intended to be human readable and they can be much more complex than the example seen here. Their main use is a transfer format.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus