Staying Connected by Creating a Family Tree

Amanda Simmons, Franks, Meggan

During this time of unexpected disconnect, creating a Family Tree is a great way to maintain a connection. It also provides many learning opportunities for your child.

First, have this conversation about citizenship with your child. Did you know that you are a citizen? You most definitely are! Wow! But what does that mean? Citizenship is our relationship with other people. Citizenship is how we act toward each other and how we think and feel about each other and the place where we live. You are a citizen on many different levels. You are part of your family, your community, your county/parish, your state, your country, and your world. The first human relationship a child has once they are born is with their family. You are first, a citizen of your family. A very basic definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other. Every family is unique. Your family may be large or small. You may all live together, or some of your family members may live far away. No matter what your family looks like or where you live, your family is special.

Creating a Family Tree is a great learning activity for parents and children to do together. This lesson can be designed to accommodate any age group. This project will encourage connection with family members even when done from a distance by placing a phone call, video chat, or using Facetime, etc.

It is very beneficial for children to create a Family Tree and to learn as much as they can about their family. Why is making a Family Tree with your children important? In 2010 Emory University undertook a study asking children questions about their families' history. They found that 'family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world.’ This hands-on method of learning about their family and where they fit in the family unit allows children to connect with family, provides a greater sense of belonging and identity, and allows children the opportunity to apply what they have learned to their daily lives as they navigate where they fit in as a citizen of the world. Children need connection and subjects like history to be hands-on. Family Trees do just this. It will involve them asking questions, talking to relatives, asking about things in their childhood. Don’t just stop at the basics; get them delving deeper.

How creating a Family Tree creates connection:

  • Children often can’t see past themselves and the little world that revolves around their day to day lives. This is natural. By creating a Family Tree, it can help them see where they fit in the world, where they come from, their roots, who they are, and their connection to the world. They will learn about people they may not have realized existed.
  • They may learn they have similar personalities and characteristics with some of their relatives.
  • Conversations with their relatives give way to family bonding and not just for your children. It’s about bringing families together.

What they can learn from creating a Family Tree:

  • Basics of how to conduct research.
  • How to organize information and documentation.
  • Strengthen Vocabulary
  • History
  • Basic biology and genetics
  • Career choices
  • Writing skills
  • Interview skills
  • Art skills and creativity

Some useful Family Tree language and symbol explanations:

Vertical lines ( I ): relationships between parents and their children
Horizontal lines ( – ): linking all the siblings to their parents
Equal sign (=): married
b. : born
d. : died
m. : married
[1] [2]: 1st/2nd marriages and so on

  • One generation is:
    all your siblings and cousins. The next generation would be all your parents and aunts, uncles, and so forth.
  • The addition of ‘great-’ is: a way of describing a generation further back than your grandparents. Every further generation, you add one great. So, if you are talking about three generations before your grandparents, you would say, 'great-great-great.'

Step 1: Gather information for your Family Tree

Gather and organize your family information. Complete a chart of your family members, including their names, dates of birth, and dates of death. Call/video chat/Facetime family members, especially grandparents, for family names and information for your chart. If you're lucky, you'll get the opportunity to hear some surprising family stories. After completing your interviews, write a story about that family member using the information you gathered in your interview. Use your creative writing skills. You could expand your project further and create a family journal or scrapbook to accompany your Family Tree.

Step 2: Decide how far back to go

You must decide how many generations you want to include in your Family Tree.

Step 3: Decide what information you want to add

Collect pictures of family members that are included in your Family Tree. Ask relatives to send you pictures. In addition to the first and last names of your family members, you might want to include birthdates, marriage dates, death dates, hometowns, careers, etc.

Step 4: Select or create your Family Tree and diagram

There are dozens of Family Tree templates on the internet that you can choose from, or you can create your own. Use your creativity and make it unique!

Older children may want to create their Family Tree on the computer. There are dozens of Family Tree programs available on the internet that you can use to create your Family Tree.

Step 5: Complete your Family Tree and diagram

Fill in/add your family member information or pictures, etc.

Step 6: Share your Family Tree with your relatives and keep it in a safe place.

Make your Family Tree available to your relatives and keep your Family Tree in a place where you can easily refer to it any time you would like to feel connected with your family.

Supplies you will need:

  • Paper, construction paper, poster board, etc. – based on your preference and size of your Family Tree.
  • Markers, colors, colored pencils, etc. – based on your choice.
  • Glue, rubber cement, etc. – based on your preference
  • Scissors

Diagramming a Family Tree is a fantastic experience to use for learning your family history. With a Family Tree document on hand, your children and future generations can quickly learn about their own family and relatives and how they are all connected. Have fun!


Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development - Heritage Scrapbook - PDF

Tennessee Extension - 4-H Citizenship Activity Page - PDF

University of Florida Extension - Exploring citizenship - PDF

Super Simple - The Family Tree - Tips & Reasons to Make your Own

Edraw by Wondershare - How to Create Family Tree

Supplementary Materials

Expanded Family Tree Template PDF

Family Interview Questions PDF

Family Tree Graphic PDF

Family Tree Word Game DOCX

My Family Tree Planning Chart PDF

My Heredity Profile PDF

4/28/2020 7:39:57 PM
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