How to Draw a Family Tree When There Is a Divorce

by Josh Baum

Historically, family trees have been used more as tools to track lineage than to track relationships by marriage. Therefore, many family trees, particularly older ones, may not have any special indicators that two parents of a child were divorced or were even officially married in the first place. Newer family trees may have these indicators, though, and family-tree-making software titles often have built-in tools for indicating marriage and divorce details.

Create symbols for the married couple. Women are traditionally represented with circles or ovals and men are traditionally represented with squares, rectangles or triangles. Draw these symbols next to each other and write the corresponding name, birth date and, if applicable, death date under each symbol.

Draw a horizontal line between the two symbols. This connecting line can mean that the two are married, but not necessarily; an identical line is also used when any two unmarried people have one or more children together. If a vertical line is extended downward from the middle of this connecting line, it indicates that these two people did have children together, but does not tell you if they were married or not. If a horizontal line connects two people and no vertical line extends downward from the middle of the line, it does mean that they were married.

Draw two slash marks on the horizontal line connecting the two members of the divorced couple. If there is a vertical line extending downward from this line, indicating shared children, one slash mark should appear on each side of the vertical line.

Indicate spouses from remarriage by extending another line horizontally from the remarried person and symbolize the new spouse with the appropriate shape and identifying information. For example, if Bob and Mary Smith were married and then divorced, they would be connected by a horizontal line with two slashes. If Mary then remarried John Jones, you would draw a horizontal line from the open side of Mary's symbol and connect it to John's symbol with a solid line.

Items you will need
  • Paper Pencil Ruler


  • Several computer programs are available for creating family trees, and they all work differently. Explore the help section or user's guide for your particular software to learn how to record marriage and divorce data in your digital family tree.

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