In early times, families played a major role in forming communities and kingdoms that brought us to modern civilization. There was a time when your family’s name and honor was more important than your life and society demanded that you protect it at all costs or die trying.
When you disgrace the name of your bloodline, you’re banished, simple as that. It was an unwritten, unforgiving rule for every son and daughter. While there are countries who keep and observe centuries-old family traditions, it’s safe to say we have moved forward since.
Elements of a Good Family Tree
Today, people are given a much bigger freedom to live and lead their own lives, not what their forefathers dictate. Some will fulfill what their birthright demands while others would wander and venture to find and shape an identity of their own, which makes them no less of a family member. For this reason and for history’s sake more than anything else perhaps, it might be great to trace your family line through a family tree. To help you get started, here are the basic elements of a family tree:
1. Generation: If you’ve decided to embark on a project of tracing your lineage, you also have to determine just how far back you would want to take it and how many generations you want to show. For example, depending on the format of your family tree, you can start drawing a line from yourself or from the oldest generation downward. People usually go both vertically or horizontally in creating their family tree. Just remember that the further back you go, the more resources and work it’s going to take.
2. Names: This might get tricky when you start your research for ancestors that lived a hundred years or so ago because there might not be enough records to verify their real names, however, you can still check from local offices and your family house’s very own archives. You can also ask the older members of your family to get the names right.
3. Birth Dates: Including your ancestors, great-great grandparents down to the names of the present members with cousins, siblings and spouses may get a tad overwhelming. Just like getting their complete names right, date of birth is also an important information, so it’s better to trace back to what you can manage. This is because writing down the basic information, especially getting the dates right, about people who lived before your parents’ time is often within the constraints of what resources are available.
4. Form: It’s important not to get carried away by trying to include too much, otherwise, you’ll lose accuracy for your family tree. With that said, you have to decide on the form your tree will take. Will it be more helpful for the rest of the younger members of your family to have a simple family tree that literally looks like a tree, or would a flowchart look more organized and information-friendly? Even if this is a personal task, you should create it with the goal of keeping it on record or on display for other family members to refer back to.
9+ Family Tree Templates
Free Family Reunion Tree Template For Kids
Free Blank 10 Generation Family Tree
Chinese Family Tree Sample For Kids
Free Blended Family Tree Example
Free Extended Family Tree For Kids Form
Blank 3-Generation Family Tree Template
Cousin Family Tree Format For Kids
Free 8 Generation Family Tree Example
Simple Family Tree Vector Template
Steps to Design An Excellent Family Tree
Finding more about your family history and where you came from can feel like being in a giant maze and finding your way out can be very difficult when there’s one information after another that needs to be added. However, you can break it down by following these steps:
- Study your genealogy: There are people who are very familiar with their roots from growing up with stories about their grandparents, parents, cousins and even relatives they only see rarely but know by name. Others aren’t as familiar and don’t know much about their lineage. Before creating an outline for your family tree, gather all the information you need by doing enough research.
- Be thorough: There won’t be much use for the family tree you completed no matter how good it looks if you’ve left out something vital. As you go over the information you’ve collected from research, make sure you haven’t left anything out by double checking what you have and also checking other sources to ensure accuracy.
- Customize the tree to fit your family: The first thing that comes to mind when talking about a family tree may just be a series of boxes tracing lines to names of family members with others that don’t even ring a bell to you. You may want to be more creative by including step-parents, half or step brothers and sisters in a drawing. If you have pictures, you can draw frames and put member’s photos in each of them, so that they’re easily recognizable.
- Include more generations: Making sure that you don’t leave anyone out is one of the most important parts of an effective family tree. Keep on adding the names of your grandparents from both sides, great aunt and uncles, including their children and spouses. Fill in as much of the tree as you want but make sure it’s still organized and wouldn’t appear too crowded.
Tips For Designing A Family Tree
Creating your own family tree doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if the plan is to have one that’s useful but simple and organized at the same time, with only the most important details about each member on the chart. You may choose to do it with the family head at the top and the rest down in order of hierarchy. Or you can take it further by trying these:
- Enhance it with more detail: Whether you have used a family tree template and is trying to customize it or have already drawn one, you can improve it by highlighting the lines with blank ink or colored ink. You may also want to add some other details such as using different frames or shapes for male and female members to classify them according to gender easily.
- Don’t limit yourself: Again, you’re not restricted to just drawing a family tree with lines and boxes. You can have a design that suits your family in general and you can make it more friendly to younger members by having caricatures or fun, colorful drawings of family members’ faces.
Types of Family Tree
There are various charts genealogists use in researching bloodlines but you can choose any of the most common types of family tree, depending on which one you think would fit your family or purpose best:
- Ancestor Chart/Family Tree: Ancestor charts present the ancestors of an individual usually starting from the bottom with the line going upwards to the two parents, four grandparents and so on.
- Extended Family Tree: This would naturally require more work since it would include 3 generations up. Aside from putting the names of your parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, you may have to include great-grandparents with great-aunt and uncles to boot.
- Ancestry Family Tree: This is where you make sure you have enough room for all ancestors and that all information you have for each person is accurate and correct. If you’re not yet sure about names or birth dates, you can leave them blank and update the family tree later or as necessary.
Family Tree Sizes
There is no standard size for a family tree but if you want to have copies printed, it’s best to go with A4 & US Sizes or any of these: 16 x 20″, 18 x 24″, or 24 x 36″.
Family Tree FAQs
What is a “first cousin once removed?”
Your “first cousin once removed” is your first cousin’s child or parent just like your second cousin once removed is your second cousin’s child or parent and so on.
Why is it important to know your family history?
Knowing where you come from is knowing who you are and finding more about yourself helps you understand relationships better since the family is considered as the foundation of relationships you form with people you meet in your life.
What is the difference between genealogy and ancestry?
Genealogy is the study of ancestry and descent. It leans more towards the actual search for one’s bloodline-ancestors and descendants, with pedigree being the one direct line backward from oneself. Ancestry on the other hand, is more about family history in general; your roots, heritage, origin, etc.
A family tree may not be able to tell you everything you want to know about where you came from but it’s a great place to start and has other benefits that aren’t just limited to putting names on old, faded photographs. Knowing your father’s father and his father before him would be a great chance to better understand your family’s identity. After all, to some extent, their story is your story too.