How to Create a Family Tree

Filed under: Relatives, Activities: Family Time, Family Time

a family tree

Software programs can help in your family tree research. Credit: MCT

There are as many ways to make a family tree as there are types of families.

Thankfully, there are some universal basics to help you get started. First, you need to collect your family's data. Start by interviewing family members, the oldest ones first, and gathering as much documentation as you can find. Many people find genealogy-specific software to be a boon in helping them collect and organize their information.

But, before you purchase any genealogy software, Consumer Search (a neutral aggregator of product reviews) recommends you consider the following:

  • Try before you buy. Take advantage of any free trial offers to weed out potential duds.
  • Look for GEDCOM, which stands for Genealogical Data Communication, the universal family-tree file format. It allows you and your relatives to use different programs, yet still share family data.
  • Make sure it's web compatible. Since the Internet has become an integral part of genealogy research, make sure the software you use works online.
Two of the best-reviewed genealogy software programs are RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree.

Once you've accumulated and organized all the information you need, you can start thinking about how you want to display it. Just like the research component, there are many digital resources to help you create the family tree of your dreams. Here are a few to check out:
  • Family Tree Super Tools is compatible with most of the popular genealogy software and allows you to create multimedia slide shows with pictures, video and sound. The heirloom-quality wall charts are impressive, and you get a multitude of design tools and options.
  • Generation Maps has an impressive number of genealogy display products from bow-tie, fan and hourglass shapes to classic tree and pedigree styles.
  • SmartDraw offers a free trial of its software that helps you create unique family trees, genealogy charts and genograms, among other things.
  • Family Tree Templates has 40 different templates you can download for free, or you can pay a nominal fee to customize them.
There are many ways to put your personal stamp on your family tree, such as photos, hand and thumbprints or a family crest. If your family hails from all over the world, try incorporating a map into the design with some fun element that indicates who came from where. You're only limited by your imagination.

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