How to set up a family tree

Updated November 21, 2016

Discovering your heritage by making a family tree can create a keepsake of sentimental value cherished by the whole family. A family tree can preserve the memory of loved ones for generations to come. It also can be used as a springboard into learning about the time periods your ancestors lived in. You may even find that your relatives were, or knew, important people in history. Begin with a simple family tree, and work from there as you learn about more relatives.

List everyone in your immediate family, as far as you can go, from memory. Start with yourself or your parents.

Write each person's name on a separate index card along with the information that you are collecting, such as birth date, birthplace or hometown, date of death and occupation.

Put your spouse's index card next to yours on the top of a large piece of paper or cardboard.

Place your siblings' cards beside your card.

Place your parents' cards next to each other and below yours and your siblings'.

Place your grandparents' cards below each parent's card. Add cards for earlier ancestors if you have them.

Tape the index cards lightly in place, so they can be moved if needed.

Contact close friends and relatives for information that you do not readily have. The older relatives, especially, may have recollection of people that you were never acquainted with. Ask lots of good questions and take notes.

Gather information from other sources, such as libraries; city, country and state archives; online ancestry sites; church records; obituaries; military records; and old newspaper archives.

Write out a chart of your family tree. You may want to make the chart look like a big tree or you may prefer making it a chart on paper or on your computer. Make it reproducible so that you can share it with the whole family.


Get your children involved with you in studying what was happening at the time and place that departed ancestors lived. Photos of relatives add life to a family tree. Save your family tree for posterity by taking a digital photo of it and scan it into your computer.

Things You'll Need

  • Index cards
  • Large paper or cardboard
  • Clear adhesive tape
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