Connect to Your Heritage with a Family Tree

Teaching your children about their family history helps them to understand who they are, where they came from and where they belong. A family tree is a great tool to bring family connections to life and encourage understanding of history, heritage and relations between family members.

What Is a Family Tree?

A family tree is another word for a family history chart, and it is a graphic representation of a person’s lineage. There are many types of family trees, but the most common is known as a pedigree. This type of family chart starts with one person, and traces back their lineage from parents to grandparents and on back as far as you are able to or wish to go. A pedigree traces only direct lineage – this means that it does not include aunts, uncles, siblings or anyone else who is not in the direct line of descent. This is the simplest type of family tree, and the easiest to create with a child.

If you want to go beyond direct lineage, a second type of chart you might want to consider is a family lineage chart, which includes siblings of those on the pedigree chart. This means your chart will include aunts and uncles, great-aunts and great-uncles and so on. This makes for a larger and more detailed family tree.

Gathering Information

Before you begin your family tree, you will need to gather all of the information on the family members you would like to include. Start with the names you already know, and then ask relatives to help with the rest. To help your children connect the names with the actual people, search family photo albums for pictures of the relatives you’re adding to the tree.

As you gather up the names of the people to be included in your tree, take the opportunity to talk with your children about the history of the family. You can discuss where ancestors came from, and learn a little bit about the countries of origin. Bringing family history to life with anecdotes about the relatives as well as a little bit about who they were and what they did for a living. All of this information goes beyond a name and makes the people in your family history more real to a child’s mind.

Putting the Family Tree Together

You can create your family tree in a number of ways, but the simplest method is to use a large piece of white paper. Start by drawing boxes for all of the names you will be adding. For a basic pedigree chart start with one box, then branch off to two boxes for the parents. From each of these boxes, branch off another two, and continue with this method until you have a box for each name on your list. You can connect the boxes with plain straight lines, or get creative. Draw fancier lines or even actual branches to make the chart look like a true family “tree”.

Next fill in the boxes with the names, and add basic information about the person including date of birth, date of death in applicable, and any other relevant information you would like to add. You can add photos as well, next to the names and also around the borders of the page to add life and color to your family tree.

Hanging a family tree on the wall will keep the names and faces of your ancestors in your minds as well as your hearts. Your children will learn more about their family history and the people who might otherwise have been forgotten. Display it in a prominent position to enjoy your work, and your heritage.

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