Sunday, November 16, 2008

Draw your family tree

The records of each family form a part of the history of the country.

For some reason, the practice of maintaining a family tree has not been prevalent in India. Usually, information is passed down the generations through oral tradition. In the process some details could be lost. Perhaps it is time that you draw your family tree, if it has not been done already, with the information currently available to you

The image of a classic family tree is given below:

It is a beautiful work of art by my brother Anthony Tharakan, on a wall at Thekkanattu Parayil, our ancestral home. Our earliest known forefather is marked at the base of the tree. As it branches out, the descendants come into the picture.

This example of a family tree is difficult to follow, unless you are artistically inclined and have a lot of free time. There is a much easier way – make a simple chart, a kind of upside down family tree. The requirements for starting the work are large sheets of good quality paper, pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener and ruler. Keep all these along with your notes within easy reach on a large enough table.

Tell your family members what you are up to. Even better than that would be to have the children actively participate in the project. It would induce them to develop a sense of history.

At the top of the first sheet, write the name of your earliest known ancestor in the center. Under that enter the dates of his birth, marriage, and death (b.— m. — d.—). Next come the name, dates of birth and death of his spouse. Underline the last line of the entry or encase the whole entry in a box.

Draw a short line, say half an inch, from the center of the first entry and link it to a horizontal line for the second generation. If the first ancestor had three children, draw three short lines again from the horizontal line and enter the details, starting with the eldest in the left. Repeat the process till you reach the present generation.

In the process, you will have to make a decision as to whether you want a comprehensive family tree or one that is confined to your line of descendants only.

The final product would look like a corporate organization chart, with the CEO at the top. This would be a basic family tree. A sample of males only genealogy chart is given below:

You can make it more elaborate by giving codes for each family member, symbols (say for male/female) and historic notes. Leave blank spaces where relevant information is not available. Finally, overwrite the chart with indelible ink.

It would be much easier to make the family tree on a computer. Free software for the job can be downloaded at and similar sites.

Images: Top, KO Isaac. Copyright reserved. Bottom, Wikipedia commons.

Also see:

Senior citizens


Manu said...

You know, theres a very good website called where u can make ur family tree. I have one there at Check it out. Lots of families like Paliam, Arumana Ammaveedu, Trikkateri Nair Veedu etc have their trees on this website. Regards

Swarna said...

AT Sir - It's long been a pet project of mine. I got my F_I_L and my uncle to put down anecdotes about each member, along with chronological data. I started off with an spreadsheet, and find it useful when explaining relations to our son (just prior to family functions!)
I'm glad that there are online records and forums on family trees - that's how I found a school friend of the '80's


It is such a good idea. One of my son's friends started one, anthere were so many branches,and we found we were related too.
We must start on our own. Swarna's is a very good idea.