The family trees and relationships of fictional characters in movies, TV series, and books, from the Dublin streets of Joyce’s Ulysses to the cobbles of Coronation Street, are being digitally collated by researcher Dr Amin Anjomshoaa, who is attached to Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Software.

 Lero’s Dr Anjomshoaa, a Marie Curie ALECS Fellow at Maynooth University brought the information together on a new searchable website he has created with the help of his family.

“It has been a lockdown labour of love. Like millions of others around the world, I was watching movies and TV during quarantine. I felt the need for family tree information to understand the complex character relationships in films and TV series on many occasions.

“I found out that many such relationships are already captured in open data sources such as Wikidata, a multilingual crowdsourced repository of knowledge contributed to by 500,000 people around the globe. So, I felt the need to do something with this beautiful data covering various topics,” he said.

Using his professional expertise, Dr Anjomshoaa built a data pipeline to mine Wikidata systematically, checking if there are new entries, such as a new movie, or updated information, then the structure of the family trees (nodes and connections) will be created or updated to make the repository of fictional family trees.

“This project was special. On the one hand, the results are directly communicated with the general public engaged in the entertaining aspect of the project and raises awareness about open data. On the other hand it involves technical aspects regarding data processing, open data, linked data and crowd knowledge mining. 

“So far, I have received excellent feedback from both domain experts and ordinary users, which motivates me to continue the project,” he added. 

Dr Anjomshoaa said the selection of items from Wikidata is based on the availability of their character information and character relationships.

“To make the results more appealing, images of the actors in character are added to the nodes using Wikidata/Wikipedia sourced photographs or from other resources,” he added.

Dr Anjomshoaa said this was a family effort. Dr Ferial Shayeganfar, Amin’s wife, implemented the image processing algorithms. His 12-year-old son (Kian) road-tested the contents that intersect with his area of expertise – Harry Potter – to help improve the website.