How to draw a family tree diagram

Updated February 21, 2017

Researching a family tree is rewarding and can result in surprising discoveries and a renewed sense of self. There are established guidelines for how to draw a family tree diagram. These charts clarify generations, genders and even complex relationships among family members. Information discovered via conversations can be verified with marriage licenses as well as birth and death certificates. Some people choose to visit cemeteries to look for their ancestors and read dates and comments on the gravestones. A nicely drawn family tree diagram makes the most thoughtful gift for your children and future descendants.

Gather the information necessary to draw your family tree diagram. Talk to your relatives about their ancestors. Take notes or record the conversations so that you don't forget any details. Ask a lot of questions. Find out who married whom, who moved where and what happened to all the children and cousins. Research back as far as your living relatives can remember.

Organise your notes backward. You will start drawing your family tree diagram as far back as you can research and work your way up to the present. Organise your notes generation by generation.

Females are represented as circles, and males as triangles in family tree diagrams. (Some people use squares for the males.) Write under each shape the person's name, year of birth and year of death if deceased.

Draw a horizontal line between people to indicate they are married. Draw their children underneath the married couple, all connected to the parents with lines. (Indicate divorce with two slashes between the couple.)

Notice that each generation has its own horizontal line on the page. Maintain this order as you draw the many generations in your family tree diagram.


Practice on graph paper to help you maintain the neatness and order. Draw your final family tree diagram on a large piece of butcher paper with quality ink.

Things You'll Need

  • Butcher paper
  • Quality ink
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Recording device (optional)
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Samantha Hanly is an organic vegetable gardener, greenhouse gardener and home canner. She grows a substantial portion of her family's food every year. After receiving her bachelor's degree, Hanly embarked on a career teaching dramatic arts, arts and crafts, and languages. She became a professional writer in 2000, writing curricula for use in classrooms and libraries.