Selecting a Family Tree Template
Family tree templates can come in handy even if you’re not a genealogist. For example, many of the professional photo managers I know use them to help with organizing photos by family and by date. They also come in handy for medical, historical, relationship, inheritance, and land ownership purposes. Some saga-writing authors even use them for keeping track of their fictional characters’ lives!
I often get asked what template I recommend.
My answer, as with oh-so-many things in life, is this: It depends!Family tree templates abound! Here are some things to consider when choosing one. Click To Tweet
Here are some things to consider when choosing a family tree template:
- What is it for — Fun? Research? Class project? Photo book? Family reunion?
- Do you want a pedigree chart (which starts in the present and goes back in time), or a descendancy chart (which starts with an ancestor and goes forward in time)? A fan chart? An hourglass chart? A chart that incorporates the actual image of a tree?
- Should it show names only? Or do you also need to include vital details (birth, marriage, and death dates and locations)?
- Do you want to include photos on the tree?
- How many generations do you want to display?
- Are you looking for a digital format? Or, a paper one?
- Landscape orientation? Or portrait?
- What size? Small (8.5X11 inches)? Hanging picture size (e.g. 3X2 feet)? Or, a whole wall-width many-generation mural?
- Is it OK if you are limited to one page? Or, do you want the ability to add more generations as you discover them?
Are you starting to see why there’s no one-size-fits-all answer?
In general I suggest you start with tools you already have and see if one of them works for you. If you want to try something else, though, the good news is that the barrier to doing so, in most cases, is pretty low. Most of them are cheap enough (or free) and easy enough to use that you can try a few things and see what you like. Don’t worry about all the options you don’t research and don’t test. There’s no way (or any reason) to try them all!
Using genealogy software
Most genealogists these days use digital tools for capturing and displaying their research results. In addition to using online databases, they have software on their computers for backing up their family trees, for viewing their data in various ways, and for creating charts. For example, I use Ancestry (among many other online databases), and I sync my Ancestry tree with Family Tree Maker 2019 (FTM2019), the software program I purchased for my computer. The publishing tools on FTM2019 are usually all I need for my purposes. So, if you already have genealogy software, check out the publishing options and see if you like them.
Click here for a list of genealogy software.
Using an online genealogy database:
You can create a free account, and build a free tree, on both Ancestry and FamilySearch (the two most popular genealogy databases). Your Ancestry tree will belong to you alone, and you only need a paid subscription if you want access to their records and other tools. FamilySearch trees are public and crowd-sourced, so if you find your family is already there, be aware that the information will need to be verified. If you create a new tree there, be aware that anyone can edit it.
Ancestry: Printing a Family Tree — Printing a family tree in Ancestry is really just printing what you can see on the screen at any given time — usually not very satisfying, but depends on what you need — unless you want to have it printed by Ancestry partner MyCanvas.
FamilySearch: How do I print fan charts and pedigree charts in Family Tree? (This refers to the Family Tree section of FamilySearch.)
Click here for a list of other genealogy databases you may already be using. See what they have to offer.
Using downloadable templates
I love using Google Images for internet window shopping!
A couple of notes, though, before I show you what I found:
NOTE 1: There is really no difference between a family tree and a pedigree chart. But “family trees” on the internet stand a better chance of looking “fun” or like a green leafy tree, if that’s what you want.
NOTE 2: Unless the template requires you to upload a GEDCOM file (the standard genealogical file format which you can download from your computer genealogy software or from most-but-not-all genealogy databases), it is going to be something you fill in yourself. There may or may not be space for the detail that you need, and the more detail you provide manually, the more room there is for making errors.
Just Google (or click) family tree template — select Images in the toolbar (the default being All) — and you will see what I call “fun” options featuring clip art tree images and other whimsical designs. They are all different in terms of being free or for sale; fillable online or by hand once printed out; size and image resolution; etc. Refine your search using the categories at the top (printable, editable, blank, fillable, etc.). For video tutorials, click Videos on the toolbar.
And Google (or click) pedigree chart template — again, select Images in the toolbar (the default being All) — and you will see what I call “serious” options. They will have similar categories (printable, blank, etc.). Again, for video tutorials, click Videos on the toolbar.
Look! There’s a whole world of not-free-but-affordable templates and other family tree merchandise on Etsy! (I went to Etsy and searched there for family tree template.)
5/19/23 UPDATE: Ooh, here’s a new source I like! More Than A Branch offers a large variety of family tree templates that are customizable in Canva.
Using other tools you might already have:
Canva family tree maker (Canva is a popular, free online graphic design tool that many people already have. Not to be confused with Ancestry’s MyCanvas!)
A few more scenarios:
Attending a family reunion? Google (or click) family tree wall chart printing services. (Select Images in the toolbar and peruse the categories offered.)
Family tree décor for your home: Google (or click) family tree decor. (Select Images in the toolbar and peruse the categories offered.)
Sharing digital photos and other types of files with others in a family tree format: My new favorite thing: Collectionaire
This list is by no means exhaustive. But I’m kind of exhausted researching it for you, and I don’t want to exhaust you with options! Surely there’s something here you can use?
What do YOU need a family tree template for?
What templates have you used and can recommend?
Please share with us in the comments below!
- Copyright 2023 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life and Beyond
- Hazel is an author, genealogist, and retired home and office organizer.
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