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How to diagram a family tree

Making your family tree can be a project for the whole family. It can help young children or older adopted children understand how they are related to each relative. Many of the baby books that parents use to keep a record of baby's milestones have a family tree for parents to fill in the names of relatives. These usually go back to great-grandparents, which gives the child some ancestry. Adding a family tree diagram to a child's scrapbook is also a good idea. Writing down the information when elderly relatives are still alive can make diagramming a family tree much easier. Hours of research can be spent trying to uncover unknown ancestors.

Decide if you would like to begin with a married couple from your past, with yourself or with your children. Either way will work. It depends on your purpose for the diagram and your personal preference. For this example, we will assume that you are diagramming your family tree beginning with you.

Draw a box or a line at the top centre of a large sheet of poster board using your ruler and pencil. Write your name and date of birth in the box. Just using names is fine, but adding photos can really bring a family tree to life and help you see family traits.

Draw two boxes about a half-inch directly underneath your box. Draw one slightly to the left and the other slightly to the right with about a half-inch between them. Connect your box to these two boxes using an upside-down "V" and connect these two boxes with a straight line. Write your father's name and date of birth in the left box and your mother's name and date of birth in the right box. If either parent is deceased, write the date of death.

Draw two boxes directly beneath your father's box. Draw one slightly to the left and the other slightly to the right with about a half-inch between them. Connect your father's box to these two boxes by using an upside-down "V" and connect these two boxes with a straight line. Write your father's father's name, date of birth and date of death, if applicable, in the left box and your father's mother's name, date of birth and death, if applicable, in the right box.

Draw two boxes directly beneath your mother's box. Draw one slightly to the left and the other slightly to the right with about a half-inch between them. Connect your mother's box to these two boxes by using an upside-down "V" and connect these two boxes with a straight line. Write your mother's father's name, date of birth and death date, if applicable, in the left box and your mother's mother's name, date of birth and date of death in the right box.

Add as many generations as you have information about, or as many as you want to add following the established pattern. Add boxes for siblings of each generation if you want to get more extensive.

Tip

Several computer programs assist you in diagramming your family tree. You fill in the information and print; some even let you add photos. Several internet search engines are also available to help you find your ancestors. The Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints keeps extensive genealogy records that it allows the public to access.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler or computer
  • Printer
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About the Author

Julia Fuller began her professional writing career eight years ago covering special-needs adoption. She holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from Marywood College, is co-owner of GJF Rental Properties as well as a livestock and grain crop farm. She worked for the United States Postal Service and a national income tax service.