Don Rosa's Duck Family Tree
The Duck Family Tree which was first published in 1993 is perhaps Don Rosa's most famous work. In a comment he says: "My Family Tree which has been reprinted all over the world is perhaps the single most famous thing I've ever done. And it was all an after-thought for me. I actually was planning a story all about the Duck Family relations. Then the publisher asked me to actually draw the Tree. Once I did that, I didn't need to do the story. But it would still be a nice story, and I still have it in my notes to do someday."
When asked how the Family Tree was done, Don Rosa explains: "I considered Barks' old privately done Family Tree, but changed parts and I think "improved" on it... all done with the help of other Duck fans and Mr. Barks himself. I'm using Della as the name of Donald's sister. That was the original, first used, even though it was in the newspaper strip which I regard as a different "Donald Duck" than the comic book version. Still, the name Thelma came from nowhere, and didn't go as well with "Duck".
As for Gladstone's relation to $crooge, "Race to the South Seas" IS the story to go to... but only partially, as Barks made an ERROR in that story in explaining who Gladstone was to $crooge. Barks pointed this out to me himself when I was quizzing him while building my "official" Family Tree. The line in that story of Gladstone being the son of $crooge's sister's sister-in-law is the accurate one. I can't recall what the second phrase was in the story... something about $crooge being somebody's brother or such... but it is clearly contradictory to the previous line and should be ignored."
In AR 103: "Nobody's Business" (1987) Gladstone is referred to as a possible heir to old Scrooge, just as in the old Barks-classic WDC 155: "An heir over the rainbow" (1955). The explanation is that this was the second story Don Rosa did for Gladstone - he says: "By then I was still using Barks' old Family Tree that he had written for his own reference. When Barks created Gladstone, Gladstone was not a nephew but a distant relative. Later he (or probably his editors) wanted Gladstone to call $crooge "Uncle", so Barks apparently decided to create a way to turn Gladstone into a nephew by saying (as told in his Family Tree notes) that Gladstone's parents died of overeating at a free picnic, and Gladstone was adopted by $crooge's sister. When the publisher told me they wanted me to visually create Barks' Family Tree, I realized that it would be very bad taste to publicly show that two characters were such bums that they effectively committed suicide by eating too much free food and making an orphan of their child - that's not very funny. It was a private joke for Barks, not something he or anyone else would want actually described in the comics. So, by conferring with Barks, we rewrote Gladstone's history so that, again, as in the original, he is not actually a nephew but only a distant relative of Scrooge.
Unfortunately, the restoring of the tree left Matilda an "old maid"; I wanted to have her married to Ludwig Von Drake - he's not a Barks character though Barks used him once, and I grew up with Ludwig on TV and kinda liked him - and that would be the ONLY way he could actually be a relative of Donald. But I was vetoed by everyone from Bob Foster to Carl Barks on that one... so poor Matilda is still an old maid. (Actually, she'd be DEAD by now, anyhow. $crooge was the last McDuck alive).
I originally had Fanny Coot as Grandma's sister, but Byron didn't like the idea of Gus Goose being of the same generation of ducks as Donald's father and $crooge McDuck.
And then the editors told me to include Fethry, even though they dislike that character, because there have been so many European stories featuring him that they figured their readers would be puzzled by his absence (Fethry is unknown in the American comics)."
When it comes to the drawings of Daisy, April, May, June and Gyro Gearloose, which is added in the second version of the tree, Don Rosa says: "I did them months after I drew the Tree, and on separate papers. The editor had heard that some of the publishers wanted to include those characters even though they were not relatives."
If you look at the Duck Family Tree from a family researcher's view, you might wonder why nobody is named after one of his/her grandparents or other close relatives. Don Rosa explains this lack of renaming this way: "To give two characters the same name would be pointlessly confusing. Why should I do that when there are infinite possible different names to choose from? The only reason I already did it with the name "Eider" (the McDuck ancestor Eider McDuck and Donald's uncle Eider Duck) was that both those names were used by Barks so I had no choice... but I didn't like the situation. Sure, people in families name children after fathers or grandfathers or other relatives... but this is not a real family here. This is made up, and having two characters with the same name wouldn't be very smart."
In the American version of the Duck Family Tree, Uncle $crooge's mother is named "Downy O'Drake". Does this mean that she's Irish? Don Rosa says: "I guess. I was just trying to think up another ducky sounding name, but didn't want to use "Mc" again. Ireland is nearby, and I didn't have any "O'" names yet."
In his family tree Don Rosa added some new characters. He says: "My Duck Family Tree was based almost strictly on Barks' Duck Universe. I did create some characters, but ONLY in order to make husbands and wives and so forth so all of Barks' characters would fit into the Tree properly.". Mentioning "husbands and wives" leads to another relevant topic, the lack of normal family relations in Disney comics. Don Rosa says: "I don't really know the reason for there never being fathers and mothers, only aunts and uncles, in Disney comics. Maybe it makes the kids possible but doesn't limit the actions of the "parents"... Unca Donald can act slightly less responsible than a real father, with no mother to watch him. With the uncle/aunt deal you have all story possibilities still open with no limitations."
In his private notes Don Rosa has some extra details which don't show up in the "official" version of the Family Tree, partly because of the limited amount of space in the tree, and partly because of some disagreement with his publisher about these facts. These extra facts include:
Don Rosa says: "This is how it is in my personal view of the Family Tree. But like many details of that tree, it is not "official"... especially for Egmont, whose editors have decided that Ludwig Von Drake and Fethry Duck do not exist. At the time they asked me to draw up my Family Tree, they did consider Fethry to exist, but I did NOT and I still don't. He is a European character who has never appeared in American comics. So, in my actual version of the Tree, Ludwig exists but Fethry does not. The reason why I don't show the relation between HD&L's father and Daisy in my Family Tree is that there wasn't room for it, but this is one good reason why a story about the Duck's family relations should still be told."
- Uncle $crooge's elder sister Matilda is married to Ludwig Von Drake who is therefore Uncle $crooge's brother-in-law and Donald's uncle.
- The father of Huey, Dewey and Louie is Daisy's brother. This explains why their last name is Duck. But this is NOT the same Duck name as Donald's and Grandma Duck's last name. According to Don Rosa, the name Duck is a rather common name in Duckburg, like "Smith" and "Jones" in America.
- Fethry Duck does not exist.
Art: Don Rosa. Text: Sigvald Grøsfjeld jr. Layout: Sigvald Grøsfjeld jr..
The sources for the information in this page has been DCML and private e-mails from Don Rosa.
Note: The copyrights to all art in these pages are held by Walt Disney Co.