A family tree is a great way to trace your family's history and record all that you learn about where you came from. Before you begin researching and tracing the roots of your family, you'll need a family tree template you can generate again and again to keep track of the information you find. Although there are software products on the market to help you create a family tree, you can make your own custom family tree using any word processor with text box and line-drawing tools.
Sketch the general layout you'd like to use for your family tree on a piece of paper. The idea is to get a rough idea of the type of layout you want. Decide before you begin drawing if your family tree will include images. Try different sized boxes for parents and siblings, or consider combining boxes with circles, using the circles as additional notes. Having a rough idea on paper can help streamline the process.
Open a word processing program such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, which is free. These both have the tools needed to create a family tree template. Go to the "File" menu, choose "New" and create a new blank document. Select the "Page Setup" option and choose whether you want a portrait or landscape mode. Either works well. Remember, you will be using this template each time you need to expand your family tree so keep the orientation of the page consistent.
Go to the "Text" toolbar and create a text box. The size of the textbox will depend upon how many you want to fit on each page. Consider using text boxes 2.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches high. All you will need is enough room to type someone's name, date of birth, date of death and a two- or three-line bio.
Create several text boxes per page. Click each text box and drag it where you want to locate in your template. It's a good idea to position one text box alone, then size it slightly larger. Add three or four text boxes beneath or beside the larger one to make room for children or siblings of the subject in the first box. How you arrange and size the text boxes depends on what will work best for the style of your tree. Since this is only a template to get you started, you can rearrange the text boxes when you begin a new tree segment.
Draw lines to connect related text boxes. A related text box shows how one subject (relative) in your family tree relates to another. Use the drawing tools in your word processor to make a simple line between the boxes. You can set the colour and thickness of the lines to indicate specific information at a glance. For instance, you might use a red line to connect siblings and a green line to connect parents and grandparents. A thick line may represent blood family members and a thin line might represent relatives by marriage.
Save your family tree as a template by going to the "Save As" menu and choosing the template option. Name the file something logical such as Family Tree. Any time you want to start a new family tree segment, go to "File" and choose the template option to select your family tree template.
Things you need
- Word processor