our everyday life

Styles of Blank Family Trees

by Molly Thompson

Those interested in genealogy have numerous options for charting or diagramming their family tree information. You may choose to have your family tree prepared and printed professionally, or you may opt to do it yourself. In the latter case, you can select from already printed or downloadable forms into which you enter your own information. Some are decorative and can be enlarged for display. Others are more utilitarian and helpful for capturing data for research purposes.

Traditional Tree Diagrams

One of the most traditional ways to record family history information is writing family members' names and key dates on branches of an actual tree drawing. The trunk may contain a picture or name of a family member from the current generation, with each successive generation of ancestors arrayed on widening branches going up the tree. An evergreen-shaped tree provides a good backdrop for another variety of family tree diagram, in which a single ancestral couple marks the top of the tree and their descendants are filled in on branches moving downward.

Bracket Charts

These diagrams are used to capture four to five generations of a family across a single sheet of paper. Some start with a single individual on the center left of the paper and expand to the right with subsequent generations. Others look very much like a sports championship bracket or a bow tie shape, with a married couple in the center and their respective sets of ancestors expanding outward, one family on each side.

Fan Diagrams

Fan-style family tree diagrams use a half circle divided by arcs into a bullseye and spoke-like radii dividing the arcs into family branches. The center bottom point is a single current-generation individual; the first arc is divided in two, reflecting the person's parents. The next arc is divided into four blanks for their parents, and so on, fanning outward to capture five to six generations. This is good style for children to use because of its simplicity.

Pedigree Charts

Pedigree charts can be made either vertically or horizontally on a page. They appear similar to a bracket chart, but allow users to enter more detailed information, such as the names of siblings for each generation. This type of chart is more often used by serious genealogists for data recording; it is often very text-filled and therefore not always as attractive for displaying as some of the less cluttered diagrams.

Picture Charts

Some bracket charts and tree drawings also incorporate small photographs of the individuals depicted on the tree. Stylized versions display the photos in small frames, while more basic ones just print the picture next to each person's name. There are even a few three-dimensional tree charts available. These provide you with a small label or tag and an actual picture frame for each individual on the tree; you fill in the data and add the picture, then hang each tag in the appropriate location on the tree.

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images