How to chart divorce on a family tree

Updated April 17, 2017

Historically, family trees have been more concerned with lineage than with relationships, and therefore little attention was devoted to the marital status of parents. With a minor addition of a symbol or small notation, however, it's easy to modify traditional family trees to indicate the end of a marriage by divorce, and even to trace the offspring of people after subsequent marriages. Many software programs come equipped with this feature, and display divorce in different ways, but a paper-and-pencil solution can be both elegant and dignified.

Position the divorced partners together as one would when they were married, with two parallel horizontal lines connecting them. This is the traditional symbol for marriage.

Draw a vertical line extending below the midpoint of these horizontal lines and list all children from that marriage extending to the left and right, with older children on the left.

Write "div." on top of the horizontal lines indicating the marriage of the partners and the year of their divorce. Do not use the letter "d," which is often used to indicate "death."

Position the new marriage partner(s) immediately beside the former spouse(s), in the case of remarriage. Draw an additional parallel horizontal line connecting the divorced spouse with the remarriage partner(s).

Indicate the offspring of the remarriage by extending a vertical line to children, as with the children from the first marriage.

Things You'll Need

  • Pad of paper
  • Pencil
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About the Author

Ploni Almoni began writing professionally in 1990. Since then, he has published widely in scholarly journals such as "Slavic Review," "Transcultural Psychiatry" and "Thought and Action." Almoni earned a Doctor of Philosophy in history from the University of Toronto.