Encyclopedia

Learn the history and popular uses for dozens of diagrams, charts, and visuals.

Family Tree

A Family Tree is the most common form of documenting the ancestry of an individual. It is easy to read as a result of its logical organization. Most Family Trees include a box for each individual, and each of these boxes is connected to the others in a manner that communicates the relationships of that individual to the others. The information in the box may vary from just the individual's name to much more information, such as dates, birthplace, depending on the desired complexity of the tree. Typically, a generation is organized into a level on the page so that each individual's ancestors are physically above the individual in the tree. Thus, a horizontal line between two boxes indicates a marriage, and a line from between those two boxes to a set of boxes connected by a bracket indicates the children from that marriage. Although most Family Trees grow vertically, they are occasionally drawn sideways as well.

Family Tree
Typical Uses

Family Trees give an excellent visual of one's family and can be used in many ways. Although they do record genealogical information they can also be framed and hung in one's home, or filled out by young children to help them understand the importance of family.

Best Practices
  • Start the chart. Choose an orientation the tree. As mentioned above, the most common is to start at the bottom of the page and work up toward the top. Other choices are top to bottom, left to right and right to left.
  • Labeling. Choose the depth of information to be included in each box. This will affect the size of box used. Also, if this Tree is to be placed on display, it may be desirable to use a leaf shape for boxes and tree branches for the lines so that the end result looks like a tree.
  • Choose a primary individual. Determine the most recently born individual, whose box will be placed at the "root" of the tree. Label the box and place it in the center of whichever edge of the page is to be the root, depending on the chosen orientation.
  • Add ancestors. Add and label boxes for the individual's siblings and ancestors, starting with parents and then grandparents. Extend the tree as far as desired.
  • Share your chart. Confirm the information on the Family Tree with members of the family or anyone with knowledge of the family and add to it after gathering more information.

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