How to Do a Genogram

by Nannette Richford

A genogram is similar to a family tree, but it contains additional information about the mental, physical and emotional state of family members. Once established, the genogram serves as a valuable resource for tracking medical conditions from one generation to the next and makes it easy to see connections that may go unnoticed if they are not written down. Genograms may provide clues useful in diagnosis and treatment of disorders.

Begin with yourself and your immediate family. Draw a basic chart with you and your spouse on the bottom. Draw a square on the left side of the page for the male and a circle for the female. Connect the two with a straight line (see Resources for graphic representation of charts).

Move up a level and place the parents of the husband above his name with his father to the left and mother to the right. Place the wife's parents above her name. Connect with a solid line.

Place children under the parents by drawing a vertical line connecting them to their parent line. Include as many generations as desired by following the same procedure. Most genograms include three generations, but some prefer to complete as much information as possible.

Decide on symbols for physical, medical and emotional traits. The important thing is that you will recognize the symbol and that it is used consistently throughout the genogram. Include a legend on the chart that explains what each symbol represents.

Include as much information as possible. What may seem trivial now may prove to be important clues to hereditary conditions and prove helpful in practicing preventive medicine or for making accurate diagnoses for family members.

Items you will need
  • Large chart paper
  • Family history (medical, psychological, emotional)

Photo Credits

  • DJGonta/