A family tree is a type of chart or diagram representing generations of families and how they are linked throughout the years.

A family tree can include names, birth dates, marriage dates, and pictures. Family trees can be simple and have your close family members, or they can go back many generations to enable you to see where you came from, who your ancestors were and how you are related to them.

A family tree could also be used to show the following:

  • Direct descendants of a famous historical figure
  • All family members who share the same surname
  • Generations of holders of office who may not be directly related, such as Kings and Queens

Family trees are also an excellent visual representation of how close you are related to a member of your family. For example, you will see that you are more closely related to your sister than your cousin, as you are closer to them on the family tree.

What is genealogy?

Genealogy is the study of families and their history. Genealogists collect data about families by conducting interviews, looking through historical records, performing genetic analysis, and using other research methods to construct family trees.

What is a tree structure?

A tree structure or a tree diagram is a way of representing hierarchical data. Meaning data is organized in a particular order on different levels. For example, in a family tree, the information is collected with older generations at the top, the youngest at the bottom, and those of the same age on the same level.

A tree structure is used as a graphic representation to help make data sets easier to interpret and understand.

Other examples of tree structures:

  • Evolutionary tree – like a family tree, but this shows the relationships between species of animals
  • Sports tournament brackets – show which teams have played each other and who has progressed through each round
  • Rock bands – English journalist Pete Frame has made family trees depicting the different members of rock bands over the years

What is a genogram?

A genogram is a more detailed version of a family tree, which also shows the medical history of family members. Allowing doctors and medical professionals to see any hereditary patterns and psychological factors that may have affected a family over their generational history.

Why is a tree used to represent family?

The use of a tree to represent genealogy possibly dates from a piece of medieval art called ‘The Tree of Jesse,’ which depicts the ancestors of Christ in a tree. The Jesse Tree is used to help tell the story of the Bible from Creation to the story of Christmas.

Why should I make a family tree?

Family trees are a great way to explore your history and background. You may discover some amazing facts about your ancestors! Family trees can help you:

  • Find out more about who you are and where you came from
  • Discover fascinating facts about your family
  • Connect you to your heritage
  • Pass on stories about your family through generations

How to make a family tree

  1. Gather information about your family – you might want to find documents, pictures, newspaper clippings, photos, and more to make a more visual family tree
  2. Outline with all the family members you want to include – remember, you can always keep adding to this!
  3. Create a ‘leaf’ for each family member – add names, dates, photos, and any other information you want to include to each leaf
  4. Distribute to your family or share in the classroom!

Fun family tree facts

  • The most extended family tree in the world is that of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher. It has around 2 million members!
  • If family trees go back eight generations, most people will have approximately 256 ancestors!
  • People have been making family trees for a long time! In Japan, it is believed that the ancestry of the Imperial family began to be traced during the 5th century. The Old Testament also includes a family tree with a record of the descendants of Adam and Eve.
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