There’s only so much you can do with a hand-drawn family tree. Here are fifteen creative ways to make a family tree that’s perfect for your family.
As a visual representation of your family, a family tree has never been so important. Not only does it help you with your history, but it is a symbol of—a connection to—your lineage. And with the rise of genealogy technology and the surplus of digital information, it’s easier than ever. But aren’t all the lines and data getting a little boring?
A basic hand-drawn tree like the one you made in first grade is great. But we can do even better. Here are fifteen different ways to make a beautiful and unique family tree that fits your family.
Details You Can Add to Your Family Tree
- basic information
- birth dates and places
- death dates and places
- significant life events
- marriage and relationships
- geographical origins
- migration patterns
15 Family Tree Project Ideas
1. The Hand-Drawn Tree
The simplest method is to draw a family tree by hand on paper. Start with yourself and branch out to your parents, grandparents, and so on. Use lines, shapes, and labels to represent family members. You can even get creative with it and draw a large, beautiful tree in the shape of your family. But if you’re not confident in your artistic abilities, don’t worry. We have some other options that don’t require a pen and paper.
2. Genealogy Software
As basic as the programs can be, the simplicity of genealogy software has its place. Most genealogy software, like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, Family Tree Maker, or Gramps, have family trees built in. These tools provide templates and databases for recording and organizing family information, including photos, journal entries, records, and more. Additionally, you can share these digital family trees with your family.
3. A Spreadsheet Tree
If you want a simple but organized family tree, then a spreadsheet program is the way to go. With software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, use rows and columns to represent relationships and add details in cells. This method allows you to easily customize your tree and adjust as you go.
4. A Paper Template Tree
So maybe you want the aesthetics of the hand-drawn tree but don’t have the confidence. The good news is, there are tons of family tree templates online that can fit any type of family. Just choose your favorite style, download it, and fill in your family tree by hand.
5. A Photo Collage
There’s the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, you can use photos to tell the story of your family. Just arrange photos of relatives in a tree-like structure, or get creative with it and add mixed media, scrapbook-style clippings, headings, newspaper clippings, and more. This can be a visually appealing and nostalgic way to display your family’s history.
6. An Interactive Digital Family Tree
We’ve covered using genealogy software, but this is a visual step up from that. Think of it as a presentation, something that you’ll use to share the highlights of your family history with others. This method uses digital tools like Canva or Prezi to create a personalized poster or an animated or interactive family tree. This allows you to attach pictures, videos, stories, and so much more in the order that best tells your family story.
7. A 3D Family Tree
A 3D family tree is just like your hand-drawn tree, but better. Construct a physical tree using craft materials like wood, clay, or paper—or you could even use a real tree! Then add your relatives to the tree with items such as name plates, photos, and heirlooms, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. But this is one that you can keep out year-round.
8. A Family Timeline
Instead of going for the classic “tree” look, design a timeline that shows key life events, births, marriages, and deaths in chronological order. This format provides a unique perspective on your family’s history and lets you see the bigger picture.
9. Family Tree Jewelry
Some artisans create personalized pendants or jewelry that represent your family tree. Or you can create your own family tree jewelry as an activity at your next family reunion. These items can be worn or displayed as a sentimental keepsake that will be passed down through generations.
10. Family History Books
Sometimes there are just too many stories to tell, and traditional family trees won’t do them justice. Instead, compile a family history book that includes the family tree, along with stories, photographs, and historical documents. This is a comprehensive way to document your family’s heritage, and it’s a great ready-made gift for relatives.
11. Personalized Family Websites
Rather than using the genealogy websites that everyone uses, go the extra mile and create your own. This can include clickable elements, multimedia content, and animations, which is great if you want your family tree to be more than just a collection of data. For beginners, you can use free web design sites like Weebly or WordPress.
12. Artistic Family Trees
This tree is the elevated version of the hand-drawn tree. Rather than focusing on the family history information, it’s an artistic representation of your family. (Fair warning, if you’re not an artist, you might want to commission someone who is.) With this, you have the chance to create a unique painting or illustration that incorporates family members, names, words, traditions, symbols, significant events, and more.
And the options are absolutely endless. For example, you can draw a tree using only the names of every relative or craft an image using symbols from their lives.
13. Etched Family Trees
This is another take on the artistic family tree—it’s just not on paper. Instead, use laser engraving or etching technology to create a detailed family tree on materials like wood, glass, or metal. This makes amazing decorations that can go inside or outside and will last multiple lifetimes.
14. The Hybrid Tree
Combine multiple methods and tools to create a hybrid family tree, such as a physical tree with QR codes that link to digital profiles. This has the benefit of creating a simple, beautiful tree with an interactive element that allows you to include things you normally couldn’t, like videos or stories.
15. The Geocaching Tree
Family history is closely tied to locations, so why can’t our family trees be? Create a scavenger hunt or a personal geocaching map, then you can physically walk through your family tree. Add places like your grandma’s house, the park your parents were married in, the hospital you were born in, and the place your uncle worked at when he was sixteen. Or hunt for important personal items and family heirlooms like great-grandma’s necklace or the oldest item in your house. And if you like traveling, you could even take this family tree further and include locations across the nation and overseas, like the places your family emigrated from. The best part about this kind of family tree is that you can track your travel on a map that you can later hang on the wall.
Books That Celebrate Family Trees of All Shapes and Sizes
What Is a Family?
Florence and Her Fantastic Family Tree
My House, My Family
Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.