How to make a family tree on Excel

Using a spreadsheet application isn't the most obvious choice for charting your family history, but Excel includes a number of features -- such as a grid layout, support for images and text, and multiple text formatting options -- that lend themselves to the task. What's more, you can easily expand the spreadsheet as your research grows, and the layout and appearance of the family tree can be customised to suit your individual requirements.

Launch Excel and choose the "Blank workbook" option from the start page. Click the Select All button (to the left of the column headings and above the row headings) to select all of the cells in the spreadsheet.

Set the font and font size you want to use for your family tree from the drop-down menus in the Font section of the Home tab. Choose "Format" from the Cells section then "Column Width." Enter a suitable value (such as "25") and click "OK." These formatting options set the basis of your family tree and you can set them up as you wish.

Click inside the top-left cell and give your family tree a title. If necessary select the cell again and use the formatting options on the Home tab to adjust the font style, size and colour to make the heading stand out.

Click inside the cell where you'd like your family tree to start. You can map the chart horizontally or vertically, depending on your personal preference. Type in the name of the first individual and press "Enter."

Select the cell directly underneath and enter further details about the person, such as birth date and occupation. You may want to change the text size, style or alignment using the formatting options available on the Home tab.

Select all of the cells that make up your first family tree entry and click the borders drop-down menu in the Font section of the Home tab (a dotted grid icon). Choose "Outside Borders" to put a box around the details of the first individual. Repeat the process for other entries you wish to add to the family tree.

Open the "Insert" tab and choose the Shapes option, then pick one of the arrows from the drop-down menu that appears. Drag out the arrow to link two of your boxes, and use the "Format" tab under the Drawing Tools heading to change its appearance to match the style of your family tree. Arrows can be copied and pasted if required using the "Ctrl+C" and "Ctrl+V" keyboard shortcuts.


One of the benefits of using Excel to create a family tree is that it gives you a great deal of flexibility over your layout and the appearance of the chart. You can adjust the background colour of entries using the Fill Colour drop-down on the Home tab, and merge groups of cells together using the "Merge & Center" drop-down menu, for example.

Images can be easily dropped into cells, should you have them available. Open the "Insert" tab then choose "Pictures" to pick out an image. You can also add comments to your cells where necessary using the "New Comment" option under the "Review" tab heading. Use the "Insert" drop-down menu under the "Home" tab if you need to insert additional rows and columns to make room for new family members.

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About the Author

An information technology journalist since 2002, David Nield writes about the Web, technology, hardware and software. He is an experienced editor, proofreader and copywriter for online publications such as CNET, TechRadar and Gizmodo. Nield holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and lives in Manchester, England.