An Atlas of Us

An Atlas of Us: A new way to tell an old story

Chart your family history across the generations. Memories, mixtapes and mom's recipes, safely stored in this virtual treasure chest.

This doc was originally made for my grandpa, who helped raise me and my brothers, after retiring from a career in marine navigation and immigrating to Canada with my parents in the 80s. For years, he'd tell us about what it was like growing up in China, spending a decade of exile in Taiwan, and rebuilding his family in Hong Kong.

My grandpa & ship mates

In 2016, I had the privilege of stepping into his past for a brief moment, during a visit to his hometown in China. While I captured a
of that experience in photographs, I couldn’t help but wonder about the larger underlying narrative of these images.

As my grandpa approaches his late 90’s, I’ve been interested in new ways to document our family history, and make it accessible to the rest of the family (present and future).

I was searching for “a treasure chest in the cloud”, but for a long time, I struggled to find one... So, I built one from scratch, here in Coda.

If you’re interested in doing something similar for your family, feel free to use this doc as a blueprint for building a “treasure chest” of your own.

“To know who we are, is to know they were.” — Spielberg

How to Begin
Copy this doc

[Video pending]

[Add control]

Admin & Structure
section is meant to be handled by a one or a few family members who are key administrators of this doc. Others should not tamper with the information housed here unless granted permission.
Determine who will be the
of this doc.
Before you edit anything, you may want to explore each section to see how all the pieces connect. You’ll notice that this template is pre-populated with fictional family content, from the characters of the television series
(please beware of spoilers!).
The administrator(s) can then explore the doc’s existing
and the
is where every base table is stored and can be edited. Outside of
, all other tables are simply different views of these base tables.
is where every original form that is shared with family members is stored and can be edited. Outside of
, all other forms are simply different views of these original forms.
are Coda’s version of integrations or plug-ins. They allow you to use other apps from within this doc. The key owner of this doc should have accounts for every Pack you want to use:
, in order to use:
Google Maps
Google Translate
Clear sample data:
Once you're ready, you can start clearing the fake content using the red ‘
Clear sample data
’ buttons in
, and start adding real content by following the instructions below.

The Family
Start by registering family members and their key information into the
using this form.
You can also email/share
with family members to fill out the
on their own.
Create a
by clicking on the orange
‘Copy Family Tree template’
button. This will open up a link to a
family tree template that you can duplicate, edit and collaborate on.
Replace the URL of the embedded frame in
by pasting the URL of your Figma document.
Right-click on the yellow
‘Add to Family Tree’
button and paste the same URL into the ‘URL’ field.
Edit the family tree template to reflect your true family genealogy.
Create a
that displays where family members are located in the world. Click on
‘Add to Family Map’
to open up the
Google Map
and input specific addresses using the pin icon 📍. Addresses can also be grouped into ‘Layers’ (e.g. Children, Parents, Grandparents).

Moments in Time
The following steps can be done in any order.
Add existing stories & memories to
. To add multimedia content, click the yellow button and fill out the pop-up form.
Generate new stories & memories by using
Curate the list of
by upvoting👍/downvoting 👎 questions that resonate with you. You are free to share
with family members to have them upvote and see which questions are most interesting for you all.
the questions you’d like to ask a family member.
Assign selected questions to respondents & interviewers, which will populate the table in
Randomly generate a question
from your curated list of prompts by using the orange button. (Use the green button to reset the question generator.)
As you populate
you will be able to view them across time in
Language Translation: In
the ‘Translate’ column uses
Google Translate
to convert
‘Writings/Notes’ and ‘Questions/Prompts’
to the chosen language. To alter the language, you can edit the formula of those columns by replacing “Spanish” with your desired language.

Explore a ‘Family Mixtape’ that curates a selection of favourite songs from family members across multiple generations.
Add a song track to the
by clicking on the yellow button to open up a shared Spotify playlist.
Listen to a track on Spotify by clicking the ‘
’ buttons.
Build and explore a family
that stores your favourite family recipes.
Explore the
and cook your favourite recipes!
Add links to third-party apps where you store your family videos (i.e. home videos, slideshows, etc.) in

It takes a village to raise a doc. 😊

Thank you to all those who helped me create this:
Rocky Moon, Hector Reyes, Luv Gupta, Genevive Bretto, and... more tba!

Cover photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via Unsplash
Dummy Data: Adapted from the characters and events from ‘This is Us’ (NBC Television)

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