06/04/2017
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

How to make a family tree

a77d52d4-144a-4f1d-84b6-281865eb1cab

Draw up your family tree for free, online or on paper, with our guide for family history researchers who'd like to keep a record of their ancestors.

A family tree is a visual way of showing how one generation of your family connects to the next, as well as displaying the relationships within each generation. Although these charts can look complicated, it’s simple to draw up your own family tree, as we show you here.

Join the Family Tree community  
Follow us on facebook
Follow us on twitter
Sign up for our free e-newsletter
Discover Family Tree magazine

Creating a family tree is a great way to see your history at a glance and you can use it both as a working document and eventually as an heirloom.

Preparing to make your family tree

Before you plot your tree, take a look at a variety of templates to give you an idea of what format might work for you. Good examples can also be viewed at Family Tree Templates and Obituaries Help.  Alternatively, you might prefer to work from a pre-printed chart, available from genealogy suppliers.

Next, decide how you’ll display the information. Abbreviations make things simpler – ‘b’ for date of birth, ‘m’ for marriage and ‘d’ for death. The ‘=’ sign indicates a marriage. If an ancestor has more than one marriage, these can be listed as 1, 2, etc., with the relevant children shown for each union.

Vertical lines on the tree indicate the relationships between the generations, whilst horizontal lines are used to display the children of a marriage, with siblings listed in age order.

How to draw up your family tree

Once you’re ready to begin drawing your family tree, write in pencil, making each entry permanent once you’re confident that the names and dates are correct.

Plot the youngest generation of the family at the bottom of the page, allocating a box to each person, with the oldest child on the left and subsequent siblings listed to the right of the previous name. Each box should have the name of the person, with their surname written in capitals, along with their dates of birth, marriage and death.

Next, create vertical lines to connect each sibling to the two parents (with the father shown to the left of the mother) and write the parents’ crucial dates as in generation one. The names of the female members of your tree should be entered with their maiden name if applicable.

After this, you can continue into your family’s past, plotting new ancestors as you discover them and wondering what those tantalising gaps in your family tree might reveal as you take your research further.

Draw up your family tree - top tips

  • Consider creating both a ‘working’ family tree and an heirloom version
  • Use the best quality paper and writing materials you can afford for your heirloom tree
  • Allow room on the chart for generations yet to be discovered!

Back to "Family history for FREE" Category

06/04/2017 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Charles Booth Poverty Maps of London added to TheGenealogist's Map Explorer

TheGenealogist’s Map Explorer now includes a feature that allows users to access Charles Booth's ...


3 key resources for today's genealogist; what to look for & where to find them

Are you just starting your family history, or wishing to brush up on your online research know-how? Our 3 key ...


How to create a family tree chart

Find out which family tree chart is best for you, whatever stage you’re at with your family history research, ...


Making a Mayflower 400 pilgrimage

Four centuries ago the Mayflower Pilgrims set sail for the New World. Discover must-see places to include ...


Other Articles

Which family tree chart should I use?

Confused about the many different genealogy charts that are available? Here's our expert help! ...


Boris Johnson is related to ten US presidents

New research by Gary Boyd Roberts of American Ancestors explores the family tree of UK prime minister Boris ...


FamilySearch users can now correct name indexing errors

FamilySearch have today (31 July) announced a new facility that allows users to make name corrections to its ...


DNA classes at RootsTech London: guest blog

If you are joining us in London for RootsTech this October, now is the time to start organising your ...