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.
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