How to plan out 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.

4.

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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Family Tree - Everything You Need to Know to Make Family Trees

What is a Family Tree?

A family tree is the most common form of visually documenting one's ancestry. Most family tree charts include a box for each individual and each box is connected to the others to indicate relationships. In addition to an individual's name, each box may include dates, birthplace, and other information, depending on the desired complexity of the family tree diagram.

Typically, a generation is organized into a single level so it's easy to see at a glance which ancestors preceded which generation because they are physically above them on the tree.

A horizontal line between two boxes indicates a marriage. A bracket from a couple to a lower set of boxes indicates the children from that marriage. Although most family trees grow vertically, they are occasionally drawn sideways, as well.

How to Make a Family Tree

The easiest way to draw a family tree is start with a family tree template. SmartDraw's family tree template starts you with a basic family structure already on the page. You can use this to build on. There are easy-to-use buttons to add descendants, ancestors, spouses, and siblings. You'll want to decide what generation you want to start with. You can start with yourself and build backwards or start with an older generation like great grandparents and build downwards.

  • Decide how many generations you want to show.
  • Start drawing from yourself backward or from the oldest generation downward.
  • Each invidivual in your family will be represented with a box connected to others with lines that indicate relationships.
  • Add descendants, ancestors, spouses, and siblings by clicking on the corresponding SmartPanel buttons to the left. SmartDraw automatically connects the boxes that are added or moved.
  • In addition to names, you can also add birth dates as well as pictures, or anything else that would enhance your tree.
  • To make your diagram easy to understand, each layer should represent a single generation.

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Best Practices When Creating a Family Tree

  • Plan your family tree. Determine what you'll do with the family tree. Will it be printed and framed for display? Will it be shared electronically? If the plan is to print the family tree, you may choose to be conservative in regards of the amount of information to include, keeping the information legible and printable. If the plan is to share it electronically then the size of the diagram is not a factor.
  • Determine the level of complexity. Knowing the level of detail you wish to portray in the family tree will help determine the level or research you'll need to do. It will also affect the size of the boxes as well as the overall design of the family tree.
  • Do your homework. In order to create an in-depth family tree, you may need to contact individuals within your family. If you're lucky, you may have a relative who has already documented some of the information you need.
  • Know your audience. Family trees depict family relationships and bloodlines. Yet they also document history that may not be known by everyone in the family. Before you reveal family secrets unwittingly, make sure you know who will be viewing the family tree and plan accordingly.

Family Tree Templates

The best way to understand family trees is to look at some examples of family trees.

Click on any of these family trees included in SmartDraw and edit them:

Browse SmartDraw's entire collection of family tree examples and templates

More info
  • Family tree chart maker with templates
  • Genealogy chart maker
  • Pedigree charts
  • Estate planning software

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 site "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: