Now, the purpose of a Dynastic Tree is to document the development, expanse, and Salic inheritance of a specific dynasty. It could easily be adapted to other systems as well, but my examples thus far have been focused on Germanic Salic Law (male-line) dynasties. The most important function of the chart, and the easiest visual aspect of it, is to determine seniority between family branches. The senior line is always to the extreme left, while lines of decreasing importance are to the right.
Enough conceptual talking, let's look at a tree:
|The House of Habsburg Family Tree|
Above we see the Illustrious House of Habsburg. Now, the House of Habsburg is an extinct house, and I will explain shortly how that is noted on this tree. Extant houses appear differently and that will be explained later. On this tree, it begins with an upward arrow indicating that the family's origins go back into the distant past. All Dynastic Trees begin this way since no family is spontaneous but has some distant origin. The lines then proceed downward at measured rates equal to the individual generations in the family. In other words, even though no people appear on the chart, the lines still represent generations. When a branch forms (usually going right), that represents a single generation with the two lines descending from brothers. Minor cadet branches, such as those that die out after only two generations, are not shown on Dynastic Trees unless the line was especially important historically or dynastically.
Where possible, all lines are named. Sometimes lines retain the name of their predecessor branch, at which point it may not be written again upon the chart. For the Habsburgs, the senior line has always been the Austrian line. It is the heart of the dynasty. However, as the senior Austrian line descends, various other branches break off—the Swabian and Styrian branches. Styria, at this time, was an independent duchy attached to Austria, while Swabia was a separate entity entirely.
Now note the fates of these three branches:
- The Austrian branch ends with an inverted "F". The means that the line continued but only through females (Salic Law bars them from inheritance).
- The Swabian lines end with a definitive "L", which implies that the line is extinct (no male or female branches).
- The first Styrian line ends with a downward half arrow. That means that the line continued, but was illegitimate and never legitimized (a legitimized line would have an arrow but continue past it).
- The second Styrian line continues as a separate branch that passes the end of the senior branch, implying that it became the new senior line.
Now let's look briefly at the tree from last week. A larger version of it can be found here:
|The House of Oldenburg Dynasty Tree|
This tree follows the same rough general rules of the Habsburg tree but does have an extra notation. The inverted "P" shown on the Glücksburg, Danish, Norwegian, Hellene, Mountbatten, Romanov, and (Grand Ducal) Oldenburg lines implies that the families are still extant (here in the "P"resent). Unlike in the Habsburg chart, there are numerous small branches in this tree that don't have names beside them. The Romanov and (Grand Ducal) Oldenburg lines especially demonstrate this. The names are missing because the families have no other designating factors separating them from their parent branches. The Romanovs all call themselves Romanovs, despite the fact that there are rival lines. The (Grand Ducal) Oldenburgs all just consider themselves princes of the ducal house. In some cases, the omission was done because it just made sense, such as the slight stair-step for the Beck branch, which almost immediately succeeded its predecessor.
Regardless, the same rules apply. If a female line continues a dynasty (such as Habsburg-Lorraine), it can be included on the tree by continuing the line past the inverted "F". Likewise, legitimized lines can continue past the half arrow. Extant ("P") lines always go to the youngest member of the generation, not necessarily the ruling person, to show the full extent of the dynasty. Thus, even though the Glücksburg branch is the most senior Oldenburg branch extant, the Norwegian and Hellene branches are the youngest generations of the family.
Also interesting to note, as families decrease in seniority, it takes fewer generations to reach the present. Thus, the (Grand Ducal) Oldenburg branch is many generations older than the Norwegian branch, despite the fact that they both survive today. This is partially because younger children reproduce after older children (because younger children get married later in life), and also because minor lines of families aren't prone to as much inbreeding (which stifles reproduction) and intrigue (which often kills off monarchs prematurely).
So here I have my proposal for Dynastic Trees. They take quite a while to make but look fairly nice when done. I hope someday soon to make a book and website about dynasties using this system, but I need to find a quicker way to make the trees—Photoshop takes too long!