How to make a 20-generation family tree

The longest family tree on record is that of Chinese philosopher Confucius, with more than 80 generations and 2 million family members. In 1998, the 77th generation started the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee with 450 branches all over the world to register all of his descendants. The prior update was in the 1930s, where 600,000 family members were added. To mark Confucius' 2560th birthday, the fifth edition of his family tree was published in 2009. Making your own family tree is a way to celebrate and record your past, present and future descendants.

Gather information from your family to start a 20-generation family tree. Talk to the oldest relatives first, as they will have the most valuable information about your family's history and travels. Record this oral history onto tape or CD. Email everyone you can't speak with about this project to send you any details about earlier generations.

Look for any old records or historical papers concerning your family's local genealogy. Check the library or historical societies to find out about your family's immigration to the United States.

Start the family tree with the names you have gathered so far. For this first edition, you don't need a fancy template. Place your name and your siblings at the bottom. Next, write your parents and their siblings above. Add any spouses and cousins. Then, add the spouses of your cousins and their children. This is considered two generations only. The third generation would be your grandparents, their spouses and their siblings. You may want to limit this tree to only your side of the family, rather than your spouse also. Keep adding older generations when you have more information.

Explore websites with family genealogy information. They use family names, birth dates and birth places to check censuses and other public records. Local churches also have family ancestry information.

Keep adding names or place blanks in area where you don't have names yet.


It takes time to create a 20-generation family tree. Once you gather more than 7 generations, you may consider inputting the information onto a computer. Family tree software makes inputting information easier. After you start this project, you may host a family reunion to meet all your family member in the U.S. and abroad.


Use caution when using websites that need credit card details. Check with the Better Business Bureau about a website's legitimacy.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
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About the Author

Charong Chow has been writing professionally since 1995. Her work has appeared in magazines such as "Zing" and "Ocean Drive." Chow graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. She also received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts.