How to diagram a family tree

How to Make a Family Tree Chart

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Posted by: Lucid Content Team

In 1977, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) gambled that a 12-hour miniseries based on Alex Haley’s best-selling novel, “Roots,” would be of interest to the general American audience. In an unprecedented move, ABC scheduled the series to be broadcasted over eight consecutive nights.

The gamble paid off as roughly half of the Americans alive in 1977 watched at least part of the series. 

The “Roots” miniseries was a cultural phenomenon that influenced millions of viewers to research their own roots. While writing the book, Haley did a lot of genealogy research at the National Archive, and after the series aired, letters to the National Archive tripled and applications to use the facilities increased by 40%.

If you are interested in your own family history, a good place to start is to create a family tree.

Family Tree Chart (Click on image to modify online)

A family tree is a visual representation of a person’s lineage, tracing relationships to common ancestors. Visually similar to an org chart, this diagram is usually presented in a tree structure starting with one individual as the root. From the root, lines representing branches terminate in boxes representing leaves. Each leaf represents individual family members with information such as birth, marriage, and death dates. 

A family tree diagram or genealogy chart makes it easy to record the people, places, and events that make up your family history and then share it with others. Learn how to draw a family tree (or get started faster with a few examples of family trees).

Why create a family tree?

If you are even a little bit interested in your ancestry and if you would like to gain some insight into who you are and where you came from, you may want to create a genealogy chart.

There are many reasons to make your own family trees:

  • It gives you a connection to your heritage.
  • It can help you trace genetics and family health concerns.
  • It is a good exercise for learning your family history in relation to historical events.
  • It is a good way to pique your children’s interest so they will want to learn about ancestors and preserve family stories.
  • It can be fun!

How to draw a family tree chart

A family tree can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. 

A simple genealogy chart may include you, your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents. A complicated family tree chart may include you, your parents, your siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and so on.

How far you go and who you include is up to you.

Getting started

Before you jump in and start drawing your family tree, you may want to do a little planning. For example, you might ask yourself:

  • How far do you want to go back? 
  • Is there somebody in your family who already has this information to give you a starting point? 
  • What type of information do you want to include on each leaf (births, marriages, deaths)?
  • Do you want to add pictures of your ancestors to each leaf? Where can you find these pictures?

You also may want to determine in which direction you will draw the tree. In nature, trees grow from the ground to the sky, but on paper or the computer screen, family trees can develop from the bottom up, the top down, or horizontally. It could be a good idea to look at some examples of family trees to help you decide how your tree will be drawn.

There is not a single family tree definition that dictates what has to be included or what the family tree should look like. But note that if you simply want to chart relationships without digging too deeply, you may want to draw a simple kinship diagram instead. Kinship diagrams use basic symbols, lines, and letters to represent relationships to help you visualize your lineage.

Kinship Diagram Template (Click on image to modify online)

1. Gather information about your family

Write down what you know, ask family members to fill in the gaps, and find pictures and documents. Visit libraries and online genealogy sources to search for census records, news stories, land deeds, and other documents that can verify your ancestry.

Remember that you can only go back so far because of the limited availability of reliable records. You may have heard of some people saying that they have traced their lineage all the way to Adam and Eve. But in reality, it is very hard to find accurate records older than a few hundred years because many records have been destroyed in fires, floods, acts of war, and simple negligence. Some areas of the world were better at keeping and preserving records than others, so how far you can go back will depend on where your family came from. Most family tree outlines trace ancestry back three or four generations because of the limited information.

2. Draft a family tree outline

Compile all of the information you have and create an outline. Start drawing from yourself to your ancestors, or start with the oldest ancestor you know about and trace forward to you.

You can draw your family tree freehand using pen and paper or create a family tree online using Lucidchart and our family tree diagram maker. Through this visual workspace, you can select a family tree template online and modify it with a few simple clicks. 

Family Tree - Basic Genealogy (Click on image to modify online)Genealogy Chart Example (Click on image to modify online)Family Tree - Bowtie Genealogy (Click on image to modify online)

3. Add information to each leaf

Each family member will be represented by a shape connected by lines to represent relationships. Typically a box or rectangle is used to represent your relatives, but you can use any shape that you want to use. Each shape is a leaf on the tree. The shape you decide to use as leaves should be consistent and sized to include the information that you plan to put on your family tree chart. 

Place pictures, important event dates, and any other information you want to include in your leaf. As you put together this information, we would recommend a few additional guidelines:

Make it simple

If you want your family tree diagram to be useful to other members of your family, keep it simple so the information can be easily scanned and digested. Try to have each level of the tree represent a single generation so it is easy to trace relationships.

Don’t air your family’s dirty laundry

Who is going to be looking at this family tree diagram? There may be some family secrets that are not known to all living family members, so try to be sensitive about adding information that may not be too welcome to some of your relatives.


Distribute your family tree diagram

This is the fun part—once you have finished your genealogy chart or family tree diagram, share it with your family members and give them a chance to reflect on their genealogy or learn new family stories. You can also invite them to provide additional information.

If you have created your family tree diagram online with Lucidchart, click “Share” to give family members access to collaborate on the visual with you or export your family tree to a number of file formats.

Discover your family history with Lucidchart

Use Lucidchart to easily make a free family tree chart. No matter what time zone your family members reside in, everybody with the permission to share and edit the document can open it, add notes, and modify or make corrections at the same time. It’s a good way to bring your family closer without being in the same physical location.

Sign up for a free account so you can start tracking your family history visually.

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How to Make a Family Tree Diagram (+ Examples)

Family trees are created to show the ancestry and family history of an individual.

Making a family tree diagram can help you discover things about your past and feel more connected to your heritage.

Learn how to make a family tree diagram in this post and get examples from Venngage as well as a step-by-step guide on how to use our Family Tree Maker.


Click to jump ahead:
  • What is a family tree?
  • 4 steps to make a family tree diagram
  • 5 family tree examples and templates
  • FAQs about family tree diagrams

What is a family tree?

A family tree is a diagram that traces a person’s lineage by showing their ancestors and the generations of families that were built throughout the years.

Here is an example:

Based on its name, a family tree is structured like a tree, with the individual as the ‘root’ and their parents, grandparents, and ancestors making up the ‘leaves’ one level at a time.

In a family tree diagram, lines are used to connect family members and portray their relationships. Each family member is represented by a shape like a box or a circle with usually their photo inside.

What is the history of making family tree diagrams?

Genealogy or the study of families was the earliest form and application of family trees.

Historically, in Western civilizations, it was used to depict the ancestry of kings and nobles and verify their claims to royalty and power.

Family trees were maintained for years on end. The family tree of Confucius, for example, is already 2500 years old and is recorded as the world’s largest family tree with 2 million known descendants.

Today, genealogy is no longer just for aristocrats and important people, but anyone can now record their family history and maintain their family tree.

Should you create a family tree?

If you would like to know more about your family or you want to start recording your family history, then you should definitely make your own family tree.

It is also a great way to find out how your family story relates to important historical events.

More importantly, a family tree can help you identify genetic traits and conditions that run in your family.

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4 steps to make a family tree diagram

To start creating your family tree diagram, simply follow these steps:

Step 1: Research and prepare information

The first thing you need to do before you start drawing your tree is to gather information about your family. You can check official birth records and DNA test results or simply talk to a relative or any member of your family who has knowledge about your ancestry.

Depending on how much information you will be able to acquire, it should help you determine how big and how detailed you want your family tree to be. Decide on how many generations you want to include and what information you will display for each family member, such as maiden name, year of birth, and role in the family.

Step 2: Draft your family tree drawing

To draw your family tree, start with a box representing yourself or the ancestor you want to begin with. Family trees can be diagrammed either from the top, bottom or horizontally as long as the root will always be yourself.

Here is an example of a family tree that’s drawn horizontally:


Add more boxes until all your family members have been included. Instead of drawing by hand, save time by using an intuitive design tool like Venngage’s Family Tree Maker to create your family tree. It is specifically made for both designers and non-designers alike so it is extremely easy to use.

Venngage’s Family Tree Maker can help you better visualize your family tree through its user-friendly editor with drag-and-drop features. It allows you to change and connect shapes, add labels, and edit colors and other design elements in a matter of seconds.

Venngage also has dozens of free diagrams and templates that you can customize to make the process even faster and easier.

Step 3: Label the leaves of the tree

Most family trees usually outline up to four generations only to make them easier to understand. That said, make sure that family members and their relationships with each other are clearly illustrated by labeling each box or ‘leaf’ correctly.

Indicate names and roles and any additional information you think may be relevant. Use lines to display relationships between spouses and connect parents with direct descendants like children and grandchildren.

Step 4: Design your family tree diagram

Now, this is the part where you enhance and finalize your family tree. Use family photos to add faces to the people you are trying to introduce with your tree. Color-coordinate shapes, lines, or labels to group generations, differentiate deceased from living relatives, and create a distinction between different relationships.

To make your family tree more attractive and engaging, you can design it with icons, graphics, illustrations, or backgrounds – all of which are provided for free in Venngage’s library.

Venngage also has a business feature called My Brand Kit that enables you to add your company’s logo, color palette, and fonts to all your designs with a single click.

For example, you can make a family tree diagram template reflect your brand design by uploading your brand logo, fonts, and color palette using Venngage’s branding feature.

Not only are Venngage templates free to use and professionally designed, but they are also tailored for various use cases and industries to fit your exact needs and requirements.

A business account also includes the real-time collaboration feature, so you can invite members of your team to work simultaneously on a project.

Venngage allows you to share your family tree online as well as download it as a PNG or PDF file. That way, your design will always be presentation-ready.

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5 family tree examples and templates

Here are some family tree examples for inspiration as well as templates that you can use to create a family tree:

1. Simple family tree template

This simple family tree template has a distinguishable tree-like shape and features such as branches and colors. It is editable in Microsoft Excel and Word.

2. Ancestry family tree template

If you want a unique and more effectively illustrated family tree, this is the template you’re looking for. It has a horizontal layout with the starting point placed in the middle and extending to the left and right to better display ancestors from both sides of the family:


3. Blank family tree template

For a more organized and unified family tree, this template is what you should use. It focuses on the structure of the tree and the arrangement of its parts through clearly defined connections and allotting only small spaces for each family member:

4. Graphic family tree template

Here’s a template that you can use if you want to represent family members with icons or graphic illustrations instead of photos. It also uses roles as labels instead of names, which is more effective at portraying relationships.

5. Four generation family tree template

Last but not least, here’s a perfect example of a family tree that depicts four generations of family members. If you want your family tree diagram to focus on distant relatives instead of immediate family members, then this template will come in handy:

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FAQs about family tree diagrams

How can you make a family tree diagram with Venngage?

Venngage’s Family Tree Maker lets you create a family tree diagram in 4 simple steps:

  1. Sign up to create an account and use the Family Tree Maker for free
  2. Choose a free template from Venngage’s Templates library
  3. Edit the template to create new shapes, reconnect the lines, add labels, and upload your own images or choose free stock photos and graphics from our library
  4. Download your family tree as a PDF or PNG file or share it online with your family and friends

Is there a template for a family tree?

There are many family tree templates available online. However, using Venngage’s templates means you can also use the smart editor for free and not have to download or purchase a graphic design software just to edit a template. Venngage also offers a Genogram Maker.

How do you start a family tree online?

You can use a variety of online design platforms and software to create a family tree but they may require you to purchase plans and templates. Fortunately, Venngage is a free tool and has free templates to help you create a family tree without any restrictions.

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Create a family tree using Venngage’s Family Tree Maker to better visualize family relationships

Making a family tree diagram can help you learn about your family history and understand the connections between family members. Use Venngage’s Family Tree Maker to create a well-defined family tree.


How to make a genealogical tree of family and clan

How to preserve the memory of the past of your family? Collecting old photographs and yellowed letters in boxes on the mezzanine is not the best option: in a couple of generations, your descendants will hardly guess who these smiling people from black and white cards are. How about translating that memory into something meaningful, like a real family tree? Its creation will be an exciting quest for the whole family, and in the process of immersing yourself in your own story, incredible discoveries can await you all.

Building a family tree is not easy, but interesting. To do this, you will have to conduct a comprehensive study, collect all the data and photographs, and then try to create a family tree with your own hands from all this.

In our article you will find not only tips for finding information about ancestors, but also various tree design options. We have also prepared for you two templates for filling in the family tree - for children and for adults.

How to make a family tree with your own hands

Where to start

Before you begin, you must determine for yourself why all this is needed. Are you in the mood for deep exploration, or is your goal just to share stories about your parents and grandparents with your kids?

A well-defined goal will help you achieve the final result faster.

Think of a plan, break it down into small steps so you can easily track progress. And this will add to your motivation not to give up halfway through - believe me, you will need it.

Finding information about relatives

Once you've decided how far you want to go, the most interesting step is gathering information about relatives and distant ancestors. You will surely learn many funny and touching stories and find some distant relatives living on the other side of the world. Or maybe even reveal a family secret - who knows? To find as much information as possible and understand how to make a family tree of a family, use the following methods:

  • Questioning relatives

Start your search by interviewing your next of kin. Organize family tea gatherings with grandparents - they will be happy to share valuable memories. Arrange a video conference with those who live in other cities and countries, or just write to them on social networks.

  • Family archive analysis

Carefully study all documents, letters and diaries that have been preserved in your family. In birth, marriage and death certificates, passports, employment records and diplomas, you will find answers to key questions that are important for the pedigree. These records will help restore information that loved ones could not remember. Look through old photographs: perhaps the grandmother forgot to tell about her second cousin. Already at this stage, you can choose photo cards for your family tree.

  • Internet searches

Browse various genealogy websites and related resources for historical information. For example, the website "Feat of the People" provides open access to archival documents about the exploits and awards of all soldiers of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945.

Register on several thematic forums. For example, on the All-Russian Genealogical Tree forum, it is possible to search for a specific person by last name, regions and countries.

Try to find distant relatives of your generation on Odnoklassniki or VKontakte. But do not forget that in a correct genealogical research, any information must be confirmed by archival certificates.

  • Collection of information in registry offices and archives

If you are looking for information about marriage, dates of birth or death, please contact the registry office. If a relative has something to do with the army - for example, is a veteran of the Second World War - make a request to the military registration and enlistment office at the place of residence, service or conscription. But keep in mind: in order to obtain documents of deceased relatives, you must prove your relationship with them, providing, among other things, your birth certificate.

Don't hope for a quick result when searching for genealogy in archives. The process can take months or even years. But the information you find can greatly advance your research.

  • Contact the experts

If you do not want to spend time building a family tree, contact the professionals. Archives staff, designers, and specialty companies will help you find the information you need and create a family tree. In addition, with their help you can create a family tree book, a film presentation and even a family coat of arms.

What are the types of a family tree

There are several methods for compiling a tree.

  • Descending tree

The family scheme is formed from an ancestor to descendants. This design method allows you to visually trace the history of the family from distant times to the present day.

  • Pedigree

Compiled from a person to his ancestors. Such a structure will be especially convenient for those who have not yet completed the search for information and are consistently moving from the known to the unknown.

  • Round table

It is built in a circle, in the center of which one of the children is placed. The second, outer, circle is divided in half and the data of the mother and father are recorded in it. In the third circle, cut into four parts, grandparents are indicated. Then a fourth circle is added, which is divided into eight parts, and so on. This type of tree is quite rare. But this scheme is the most compact.

How to arrange a family tree

  • Family tree on computer

Programs for creating a family tree will help you save time and get a guaranteed result. Use the MyHeritage online service or GenoPro, Family Tree Builder or Tree of Life software. Choose a template, enter your pedigree data and enjoy the result.

You can also find or draw an empty tree yourself in a graphics editor.

  • DIY family tree

Get creative with your family tree results. We have selected a few examples for you to inspire.

Family box

For each ancestor, a box is wound up or one cell is allocated, in which documents, photos, objects are placed. By opening such a box, you can touch the past and find out what kind of person your ancestor was.

Generic tree from local materials

This design option is perfect for a kindergarten or school project.

Family tree in album

Decorative stand with photo frames

How to work with the family tree template

We have prepared two templates that both children and adults will love.

Open Tree Template for Adults

Open Tree Template for Children

Templates can be used both electronically and in print.

  • Print out a blank template and include drawings or photos of yourself and your ancestors.
  • Use a photo editor and paste the scanned images into a template. Print the result.

Filling out a template in Picverse Photo Editor

In Picverse Photo Editor you can not only edit pictures and insert them into a template, but also restore old photos.

Check out our sample of filling out the template - it will be easier for you to figure out how to draw up a family tree correctly.

1) Launch Picverse Photo Editor.

2) If you want to restore photo that has lost its appearance due to old age, open the image in the program. In the tab Correction in the panel on the right, select the option Manual . Open block Smart Restoration . If you want to convert black and white photos to color, activate the switch Make color . Press button Restore . Photos will be automatically restored.

3) In order to adjust colors and sharpness , in the same tab Correction open the required block and change the necessary parameters. Save the result.

4) To add a picture to template , click File –> Open and select the downloaded template to fill. Then go to tab Insert picture and open the photo you want to insert. To resize the inserted photo, drag the corners of the dotted box. Rotate the photo using the arrow button. If you are happy with the result, press Apply .

5) Once you have inserted all the images, click File –> Save .

How to make a family tree: rules, programs

Knowledge of a family tree gives its owner a solid advantage. This is a chance to tell the younger generation about their ancestors, to instill love and pride in their own family, to preserve the history of the achievements of relatives. In 90% of families, the custodians of information are the older generation, with the departure of which knowledge will be lost. A simple solution would be to compile a family tree. Significant assistance in this process will be provided to you by specialized programs that are presented on the Internet.

Where and how to find information for compiling a family tree

The amount of work that must be done to build a family tree can frighten a novice historian. We suggest using the available methods of obtaining information:

  • Interview the older generation. It is best to do this in person. Using a voice recorder or notepad, record the names, dates of birth, marital status and occupation of the ancestors. Grandparents will be happy to provide you with old photographs that will be used to create the tree.
  • Search in archives. Documents and photographs are stored in family or municipal archives. You should carefully consider the documents found so as not to make a mistake and not include the namesake in your personal archive.
  • Search for ancestors using the Internet. On modern resources, it is possible to find participants in the Second World War, as well as relatives who left a mark on history.
  • This is a painstaking and time-consuming step that requires patience and meticulous data collection.

For more information on how to collect information, see this article.

How a family tree should look like

Having collected information, a person often encounters a lack of understanding of how to systematize it. There are several of the simplest and most accessible options for compiling a family tree for a novice historian. Let's consider each of them in order to be able to choose the optimal solution:

  • From the side of the father. In this case, information about all relatives along the line of the pope is collected and systematized. In the middle of the left column is a photo and information about the customer. Then up are information about his ancestors (father, grandfather, great-grandfather) and down about children (grandchildren). Branches going to the right allow you to use information about cousins, uncles and other relatives.
  • From the mother's side. Compiled according to a similar principle.
  • Ascending family tree. In this case, a person who restores the history of his ancestors is placed at the base. It symbolizes the trunk. Large branches depart from it - these are the parents. Smaller branches are grandparents. And so on.
  • The descending family tree is exactly the opposite.

Having chosen the best option for the future scheme, you should proceed directly to its creation. For this purpose, you can use a sheet of drawing paper or resort to the help of specialized computer programs. Consider the products presented on the domestic market.

Overview of programs for compiling a family tree

Let's start with the fact that all programs can be divided into: It is possible to enter a huge amount of information on each person, scans of photographs and documents.

  • Free. Easy to use, accessible to the novice genealogist or hobbyist who wants to recreate their own history.
  • What programs do professionals recommend using? Paid products include: