How to Construct a Kinship Diagram

Portrait of a three generation family standing in a garden

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Kinship diagrams, or kinship charts, are used to organize information on familial lineages. A kinship diagram is a family tree that uses both symbols and letters to designate position and relation. Kinship diagrams can focus on the relatives of one person or the relationships of an entire family. To make a kinship chart, collect as much information about your family tree as possible.

Draw each female family member as a circle. Draw each male member as a triangle. If the gender is unknown, represent that person as a square.

Determine the central person, or Ego, of the diagram. Draw the Ego -- circle or triangle -- in the center of a piece of paper. Each relationship will stem from the Ego.

Draw the Ego's parents directly above the Ego. Parent-child relationships are represented with a vertical line. If the parents are married, connect their symbols with an equal sign. If they are divorced, draw a slash through the "=" sign. If the parents are not married, use a "~" sign.

Draw the Ego's siblings, using a vertical line from the parents and a horizontal line from the Ego. If the sibling is biological, use a solid line. If the sibling is adopted, use a dotted line linking the adopted child to the parents and the other siblings.

Continue to expand your Kinship Diagram to include grandparents, uncles and other relatives. If a person is deceased, put an "X" through the triangle or circle.

Add referent symbols if your Kinship Diagram is too extensive or confusing. Referent symbols show relationship to the Ego, such as "M" for mother, "F" for father and "C" for cousin.