Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alternative Ancestral Family Tree Styles

As I began looking for books and resources on teaching genealogy to young people, I hoped to find some tips on addressing family trees of nontraditional families. In our age of divorces, single parenting, and in some cases parents of the same gender, this is a valid concern for today’s teachers of youth genealogy. One book I discovered which is devoted to youth genealogy is Climbing Your Family Tree by Ira Wolfman. This book has a companion website which includes various downloadable forms. Click here for book site.

The companion website for this book includes a traditional style family tree which can be used by youth who know the names of ancestors on both sides of their families. But what about the youth who only knows the name of one parent (usually the mother)?*

Using a traditional family tree may likely stir up negative emotions in young people with an unknown or absentee parent, or even a nontraditional family which is headed by by same-sex parents. It is wise for youth genealogy teachers to be sensitive to the needs of today’s youth and let them design their family tree as they see fit, even if it does not fit the traditional two-parent structure.

Pyramid Style Family Tree

Two nontraditional or alternative ancestral tree styles are available for downloading on the companion website of the Climbing Your Family Tree book. The Pyramid style tree or the Fan or Rainbow style tree allow young people to either just focus on one side of the family or draw lines to divide the levels for both parental sides or more. The more could include step and/or adoptive parents.

Fan or Rainbow Style Family Tree

Although the focus of this book and the family trees on the companion website are designed for young people, these trees could very well be used by adults. Those of us who use genealogy software have numerous styles to choose from to display our family trees and it was good to find some alternative tree style ideas on paper that can be used to teach genealogy.

*Note-There are many adults who may be in this same situation of not knowing the name of their father. I have met several of them during my genealogy presentations.


Amanda E. Perrine said...

Thank you so much for posting this. It is tremendously important in todays world to have family tree styles for every type of family type. I will be using this book and site ofter.

Jennifer said...

Great ideas!! I had never really thought about it before, but having one side of your tree entirely blank would be pretty sad. :(

LindaRe said...

Excellent idea. I will use the alternate trees when working with children.

Professor Dru said...

Glad that these trees are helpful, Amanda.

Gary said...

These are good ideas. I have also done some work at Family Art Studio using network diagrams to depict family trees. This let's a variety of relations to be represented. For example you can include marriage linkages that then let step parents and step children be included.

For example look at the floating tree at:

Thanks again for you templates!