How to Draw A Family Tree

Once you have started to gather a little bit of information you will need to start putting it into the proper format so you can see at a glance the people on your tree, and any information that is still missing. Learning how to draw a family tree is quite simple, and it is a good idea to do this yourself before you use any instant chart creating software because it will be useful when making notes in future.

Below is a very simple example of how a family tree chart is laid out:

Sample of part of a family tree

Sample of part of a family tree from

How much information you include is up to you, but generally, the basic details are usually put underneath each name.

For example, here is what I would put on my own tree for my paternal grandfather:

Walter Bott
brn. 17/10/1884, Manchester
m. 6/10/1914, Isle of Man
d. 8/6/1949, Isle of Man

You will need to use abbreviations when setting out your information. There are no hard and fast rules about this, but you will need a basic understanding of them, and a consistent system for your own use. Here are a few basic examples to get you started:

Born – brn.
Baptised – bapt. or c. (christened)
Married – m. (it is common practice to put a =
between husband and wife on the family tree)
Died – d.
Buried – bur.

Another way of laying out information about your direct ancestry is the Pedigree Chart. This clearly shows your direct ancestors (parents, grand-parents etc) but does not show any siblings. Each generation is shown vertically, instead of horizontally.  Here’s a blank example:

As I mentioned before, there are software programs you can buy for organizing and laying out your family tree.  The one I use is Family Tree Maker, but you can find many others by searching online, or finding reviews in family tree magazines.

You can buy blank family tree charts at

Once you know how to draw a family tree, you can use the format for making notes when you are in archives and for working out family relationships.  You could also get really creative and draw your own big tree with illustrations!

Ros Bott

My History

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