Every year I print my family tree and hang it up where I can see it often. It’s like a map of the journey that I’m on. I want to know where I’ve been. I want to keep track of where I’m going. I also want to share the discoveries I’m making with my family in a natural way.
When I first started doing this, back in high school, I printed out page after page of single sheets of paper on our old dot matrix printer from a DOS based genealogy software program. Then, I had to figure out how to tape them together so all the lines were connected just right. It was time consuming, clunky, and unattractive hanging on the wall next to my desk at home but it got the job done.
Now, there are much better options for printing a working chart or a set-style chart or even having something custom designed as a gift or conversation piece. They are more beautiful and functional than I ever achieved on my own.
What I print is often determined by my family history focus for the year.
Some years I print a simple six generation chart just to keep my brick walls top of mind. When I sit down to work on my family history and look over at that chart hanging there, I’m often inspired about something new to check or some new methodology to try out.
Some years I pick an ancestral couple and print a working chart with all of their descendants on it. This is perfect to take to the family reunion. There, I lay it out on a table or tack it to the wall so everyone can write on it and update their immediate family’s information. Then, I roll it up and take it home where I unroll it and put it up on the wall. Over the course of weeks or months, I work through the edits and additions in my online tree.
Every eight or ten years I get really fancy and have a large family tree with photos and embellishments custom designed and printed, ready for framing. I have several copies made and give them as gifts to my immediate family members. This honors the effort I put into making these discoveries. It honors the ancestors and their memories. And, I don’t stress at all about the blank spaces or unfound family because I know I’ll keep looking and when they are found they’ll take their place on the new chart when it is printed and shared.
Last year, I worked with Family ChartMasters to design two new “set-style” charts for their gallery.
The first one is a ten-generation circle chart that puts you (or whomever you choose) in the center and ancestors in rings from there outwards. I took this one to the family reunion last summer. It was an easy way for everyone to see the names of our ancestors and where they fit as we shared stories about them while we were together.
The second one, and this is the one that I’ve got hanging up this year, is a basic, seven generation fan chart with a twist. I had it color coded to match the same color coding I use in Family Tree Maker and AncestryDNA custom groups. I use this system to keep track of the connections to the eight main branches of my family tree.
Once I received this printed chart, I hand wrote two numbers on each branch - how many known descendants I have identified and how many DNA matches I have that connect to them. We’re only in February and it’s already fun to look over at the wall and compare that number to what’s in my online tree. The numbers are growing.
A lot of time people don’t want to print a family tree until they are “finished” with their research. But, that often means their hard work is never displayed. Their family misses out on having those names in their home. Their ancestors are not talked about or remembered as often as they could be.
So, I really love that there are inexpensive options that are still beautiful and stylish. Working charts and set-style charts are a simple way to get something printed. Every year if you want.
Having a printed family tree hanging in your home is a fun way for you - and your family - to engage with your family history.
Take a look at the options and come back here to let me know which one you pick!