Family Tree Template

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Genealogy - aka, family history research - has surged in popularity in the last 20 years. And with good reason. Not only is it fun, but - no surprise here - the internet has also proven to be an amazing research tool! Building a family tree does more than help you explore your ancestry. It taps into many hobbyists’ passions. Whether you’re a history buff wanting to find connections to ancient times, an extrovert looking for conversation pieces at the next family gathering, or a yoga student trying to find your center, knowing your genealogy can be a tremendous value.

Whatever your reason for getting into your family history, knowing where to start can be tough. This article goes over what family trees can be used for, how to build them, and why. You will also find some great family tree templates you can download for free.

How to Build a Family Tree: The Basics

What is a family tree? It’s a way of recording your family’s relations.

Some family trees only go as far back as a person’s grandparents. These are quite easy to read. But others can go back hundreds of years, and may include cousins and in-laws and marriages and divorces… You get the idea. Not only can family tree be extensive, but they also come in a variety of layouts, which can be confusing when you first start a family-history project. If all of this is new to you, we recommend that you take a look at the templates we’ve provided on this page. That way, you’ll have an idea of which one you might want to start with. Take your time, and don’t forget to have fun!

Often, a family tree starts with one person. But it could also look at a couple - your parents, perhaps. Or even a generation - for example, your grandparents, and all of their siblings. For simplicity, let’s say that you want to research your mom’s side of the family. So, it would make sense to start with her. A standard family tree layout tree builds vertically with each generation, and horizontally to note siblings within a generation. This means that, when building a tree, you’ll move up one level to note the starting person’s parents. A horizontal line is used to signify a marriage, with a line branching down from the marriage line to identify children. Children with the same set of parents are identified by a bracket. Each person in the tree has this basic format, moving up a level for older generations, and down for younger generations. Be sure to line generations up on the same line, along with their spouses and cousins.

If you are trying to go back more than two or three generations, your tree can become crowded. If you find this to be the case, then consider building your family tree horizontally. This format does not traditionally include siblings, aunts, or uncles, but only shows a person’s ancestors. The first person’s name in the tree is put on the left of the page, and each generation moves to the right.

While family trees often start with the person who’s creating it, they don’t have to. You might help your children with a school project, for example - in which case you would start with them! But they also can make a great gift. A person might invest the time to research their spouse’s family history, for example. Not only would this be a great first-year anniversary gift - which is traditionally paper - but it’s also an opportunity for that person to get to know their in-laws!

Depending on the template you use, you might want to include birth dates and death dates, as well as military service, and any other major events in the person’s life. This allows you to keep track of those important days, especially if you or another family member ever want to take your research to the next level through sites like Ancestry.com, 23andme.com, or Newspapers.com and do some more advanced research.

Our set of templates also includes a unique horseshoe shape. This is very visually helpful to chronicle one’s immediate family, and to also show extended family on both the mother’s and father’s side, without cluttering up a tree. If your extended family includes many relatives, this may be a great option for your project.

Projects To Create Using Family Tree Templates

There are lots of fun projects you can do with family tree templates. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Creating a family tree with grandparents as a way to record their family memories
  • Working on a school project
  • Helping a friend develop their family tree
  • Creating a keepsake for a family member (a great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift!)
  • Reconnecting with distant family members
  • Teaching kids to identify family members through an easy visual
  • Keeping track of a growing family
  • Choosing interesting vacation sites, to see long-lost relatives or places of origin

Don’t forget to have fun with your project! Getting a better understanding of your ancestry and family can lead to some fun revelations and great surprises.

How To Choose My Tree?

There is no one way to make a tree, or one template that could suit everybody. Who you include depends on what you want to accomplish with your family history project. If you want to show a set of grandparents and their descendants, you should use a vertical tree. If you just want to trace your lineage back, you may want to use a horizontal tree.

In instances where one has a blended family, the two forms can be used for different purposes. A vertically built tree can show both biological parents and step parents, and can more clearly identify children and who they are related to. If your parents are not married but you still want to document your biological heritage, it may be wise to use a horizontal tree.

If one purpose of your project is to show the relationship you have with a famous family member, you will want to think about how you are related to that person, and then choose the best template to showcase that relationship. For example, I know that Mark Twain is a relation of mine, but I am not a direct descendant. So, I would use a vertical tree to show which ancestor we share, and the point at which we divert. However, I am a direct descendant of a King of England, and therefore I would use a horizontal tree to only show my ancestors, if showcasing that relationship was my goal.

Don’t forget to be aware of some family secrets in your tree. If there’s some family history that you know about that someone else may not know, be careful when making your tree! Your entire extended family standing shoulder to shoulder at Christmas family reunion, going over the great deal of effort you put into your project would not be a good way for little cousin Timmy to learn who his biological father is!

Using Family Tree Templates With Kids

Creating a family tree with your kids is a really fun way to help your children identify their grandparents and extended family. Let your kids pick their favorite picture of grandma and grandpa to include in their tree. The templates built for kids can be framed and hung in the child’s room, or around the house next to family photos. It’s a fun and interactive way to keep your family close to your kids.

You can also build a family tree with a child if they are expecting a new sibling soon. This would be a great project to show your child how their new sibling fits into the family, and they can put the baby’s picture on the tree when the baby arrives!

A frequent project children do in school is creating an immediate family tree – the child, their parents, and their grandparents.

Excel Family Tree Templates

Our Free Family Tree Template is made of 7 Excel files, so technically there are seven editable family tree layouts, each with a slightly different use. See template descriptions below to find out how to use each type of template.

Family Tree Template – 10 Generations

Family Tree Template 10 GenerationThis is a classic horizontal template, useful for recording family history going back up to ten generations. If you’re ready to dive deep into your family history project, this is a great option for you. This large family tree template version comes with two different print sizes, depending on the size of your tree.

Family Tree Template – Cousins – Aunts – Uncles

Family Tree Template CousinsThis horseshoe-shaped tree is wonderful to use when you want to show extended family, but not use multiple pages. This can be printed out on a single sheet, and shows immediate family, with extended family on both sides. If you have a lot of aunts and uncles and you want to share this with them, this could be a great option for your project.

Horizontal Family Tree Template – Simple – One Page – 4 Generations

Family Tree Template 4 GenerationIf you prefer the horizontal family tree and just want to record three to four generations, this is a great option for you. This blank family tree template comes in multiple print sizes, and has options for including siblings or spouse at the beginning if desired. This is printable either in portrait or landscape.

Horizontal Family Tree Template – Simple – One Page – 5 Generations

Family Tree Template 5 GenerationThis is a slightly larger version of the previous Horizontal Family Tree Template. This can be printed either in portrait or landscape form as well.

Simple Family Tree Template – with Image

Family Tree Template PicturesThis is an excellent, yet simple, design that includes pictures of family members, as well as places for birth, marriage, and death dates. This tree would be ideal as a keepsake, or to share with other family members as a simple way to remember one’s close family. This design does not include aunts, uncles, or cousins.

Family Tree Template for Kids – 4 Generations

Family Tree Template Kids 4 GenerationThis tree template for kids includes a child and their siblings (if desired), parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. This is useful to show a little more family details for kids’ projects, and is overlaid on a fun tree background. You can add photos next to text boxes to create a fun photo family tree.

Family Tree Template for Kids

Family Tree Template KidsThe basic family tree template for kids includes a child, their parents, and their grandparents, overlaid on a fun tree background. Add photos and names to this layout to create a fun family tree chart with your kids.

Using A Family Tree Template In The Digital Age

Family tree templates have several uses in the digital age. With the growing popularity of genealogy research, family tree templates are a great way to easily record and share that information. Sites such as Ancestry.com are great places to do the research - but you can’t hang their webpages on a wall, or hand them out to your siblings or parents. Our family tree templates are easy to print, and will fit into a binder (where you could include multiple pages, taking your research to the next level!). This could make for a great coffee-table book at your next family gathering. Or, you could put a single page in a frame to be hung on a wall, or given away as a most excellent gift!

In the end, having a family tree, no matter the format, is a great way to share memories, find out new details about a family member, or just as a keepsake to share with others. If you feel stuck on choosing a tree template, don’t worry - you can always create another tree, and each tree can be useful for different situations. Get started, and have fun exploring your family history!

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