5 Ways to Chart & Display Your Family Tree

Vintage family photo album and documents
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While tracing your ancestry back as far as possible is fun, it's even better when you can present the findings in a handsome family tree chart. From hand-drawn genealogy charts to computer generated ancestor trees, there are many different ways to chart and display your family history.

1) Create it Yourself
If you want to create something personal, and your family is fairly small, then consider creating your own family tree.

You can draw the basic connections in a line-and-box format, or get more creative by embellishing with vines, flowers, etc. You can also display the family in an actual tree format, using the roots for descendants and leaves (or apples) for the ancestors. Can't draw a straight line? Try SmartDraw (free trial available) to create any chart you can imagine.

2) Branch Out With Software
While most genealogy software programs offer basic computer-generated family tree charts, you can get even better results by taking advantage of add-on programs. These add-on charting programs work in conjunction with your main genealogy software.

  • Family Tree Super Tools - This powerful utility from Wholly Genes Software, creators of The Master Genealogist, works with any genealogy software program to provide powerful charting options, as well as a number of other useful tools. Once created, your customized chart can be printed on your own printer (they even print the cut marks for splicing together large charts that span multiple pages), or you can click to have it printed inexpensively on one large sheet of heavyweight paper via their Chartform Delivery service.
  • Legacy Charting Companion - This add-on expands the charting capabilities of the Legacy Family Tree program, allowing you to create and print a variety of ancestor, descendant, hourglass, fan and bowtie charts from single page beauties to nine foot masterpieces.

3) Use a Chart Printing Service
If you want a pretty family tree chart without having to deal with designing and printing, try one of the many Family Tree Chart Printing Services who specialize in printing large family trees in both color and black and white.

Some, such as Family Tree Illustration will custom design a chart for you, while others allow you to select from a number of different formats. Some require a family tree file in GEDCOM format, but some work from your own handwritten family tree. Perfect for family reunions and large frames, charts can usually be printed in large format.

4) Pre-Printed Charts Make it Simple
From basic pedigree charts to elaborate, rose-covered fan charts, pre-printed genealogy charts make it easy to display your family tree in style. A number of simpler family tree charts are available for free download online, such as this free family tree chart with a muted tree background and embellished boxes. Other, more elaborate family tree charts are available for purchase from various vendors.

5) Designer Family Trees
If fancy is what you want, then there are a number of calligraphers and artists who can render your family tree on vellum or parchment with hand-drawn letters and elaborate designs.

  • Marie Lynskey charges anywhere from $150 for a simple 4-generation family tree lettered on parchment to more than $1500 for an illustrated family tree with numerous generations displayed on vellum.
  • Park City, Utah-based Artist Saundra Diehl turns dull family tree charts into a work of art, using watercolor and pen and ink to create a custom watercolor painting of your family tree on aged parchment.