I have now almost completed my family tree, having each branch going back to approximately the French revolution, discovering dozens of previously unknown ancestors.

I would like to share the family tree with my family, the problem is that I cannot have a tree in a nice format that could be printed on a standard A4 sheet (maybe using both sides or whathever).

I have a SVG tree that use graphics, but it is unconventionally large and if scaled down to a A4 sheet, the text would be so small that it would not be legible. The maximum width is of about 50 ancestors of a generation, then it goes sparse again.

I'd like to know if a format exist where the family tree (with direct ancestors only) would be printable, with names but also other complementary information, and the format should be printable as not all my family users are particularly skilled with computers.

  • 1
    There is nothing like completeness in genealogy ;-)
    – lejonet
    Feb 26, 2016 at 13:25
  • 6
    "Almost completed my family tree"?! I don't think one can ever complete their family tree! Anyway - on your tree do you want to display only ancestors (i.e. a pedigree chart) or also collateral lines (including siblings and cousins)? Also, I don't think you will find any way to print an entire large family tree on one A4 sheet.
    – Harry V.
    Feb 26, 2016 at 13:25
  • I mean completed the goal to go back as far as reasonably possible on most branches. I "only" want to display ancestors - the data is still huge enough, unfortunately.
    – Bregalad
    Feb 26, 2016 at 14:44
  • 2
    Anyone got experience of the circular fan type diagrams? These must surely be more effective at using the real estate?
    – AdrianB38
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:25
  • 4
    @HarryVervet "Turns out I'm the 35,552,448th cousin 565,214 times removed of... my rabbit!"
    – Michael
    Feb 26, 2016 at 20:04

6 Answers 6


There are many ways in which a pedigree can be displayed, and there is always going to be a balance between the clarity and amount of information you can reasonably display. There's little point in cramming everything onto one A4 sheet if you have to get out a magnifying glass or take a course in cryptology to understand it.

One of the more commonly used and widely understood charts is a fan chart. There is a limit on how many generations you can include on one page, but many genealogy programs have built-in ability to produce such a chart.

There is actually quite an expanse of literature on the subject of maximizing space-efficiency in displaying tree diagrams (much of which is not specific to genealogy pedigree charts). I am sure the mathematics of space optimization are beyond the scope of this question, but if you are interested I would direct you to "Quantifying the Space-Efficiency of 2D Graphical Representations of Trees" (M. J. McGuffin and J.-M. Robert, 2010). There are a number of different types of compact tree diagrams in that paper which you might take inspiration from.

One novel diagram type that I have come across that I think is worthy of a special mention is the fractal-type tree called an H-tree. While not widely used for genealogy, Claurissa Tuttle has described the benefits of her program to produce an H-tree in "PedVis: A Structured, Space-Efficient Technique for Pedigree Visualization" (2010). Her thesis version of this paper can be downloaded here.

An 11-generation H-tree chart would look like the following (image from Tuttle et al.): enter image description here

It would not be possible to include every ancestor on one A4 sheet, but depending on the number of generations in your tree an H-tree looks like a good option for displaying a large pedigree very compactly. Being unconventional it may require some explaining when you share it with people, but I think after they understand how the H-tree works it is a relatively straightforward means of displaying one's ancestry. Another benefit of this display is it makes it very clear where the gaps in your tree are – all the white space.

As far as I am aware, there are very few utilities publicly available to generate an H-tree from a GEDCOM. As pointed out by @Sam, there is an unsupported add-on in Gramps for an H-tree Pedigree View. Progeny Genealogy also have an option to produce a Fractal Tree Chart. With some effort you could produce an H-tree manually in a graphics program or even in Microsoft Excel.

To keep the tree a manageable size, you might consider breaking it up into pieces – e.g. one chart for each grandparent, or great grandparent. In this way you might be able to fit each part of the tree onto an A4 sheet. And a benefit of this is that when, for example, you share your tree with a relative on your mother's side, you would not have to give them all the information on your father's side too (which they are probably less interested in).

  • 1
    Hey, that's pretty cool! Very convenient when the # of generations displayed is considered fixed, and I like how it makes the gaps obvious, as opposed to a conventional tree where it's easy to miss a branch.
    – Bregalad
    Feb 26, 2016 at 22:07
  • 1
    Other ideas of charts for Gramps gramps-project.org/wiki/…
    – Sam
    Feb 27, 2016 at 21:30

Printing all your ancestors for over 200 years on a single A4 sheet is not possible. Harry Vervet provided an excellent answer including the H-tree. I believe, however, that this format is hard to understand especially for old family-members.

Several users have recommended to break up your tree into pieces, I want to add some proposals to that:

The software Stammbaumdrucker (I assume you speak German) allows you to print your tree on several sheets. It tells you where one sheet connects to another and also provides a navigation box on every part (example, pdf file, 100 kb).

Another output format gives you a file card for every person (example, pdf file). These cards could be passed around to provide details on persons in your database. I have the application not available right now, so I can't tell you if a card can be linked to a tree. Given the large numbers of features I would consider this however. There is a trial version available.

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way with this software publisher.)


You could break away from tree-type diagrams and use an Ahnentafel Report.

Most genealogical programs or online stores will produce one of these that can be output as a PDF.

Starting from an individual, the ancestral generations are listed in a tabular form. The ancestors are listed in order and cross-referenced. All available information for each person is given.

It isn't a single A4 sheet, it is several sheets. However, it is easily printed and easily followed.


After dealing with genealogy of my family for years, I created database of a few hundred persons on an offline software. The point of family tree is not for keeping it for myself, the point is to share it and present it to my cousins. Most people have very low interest to spend time on installing software, registering on websites or learning navigation through hundreds of entries.

After years of searching for the best chart, I found Zoompast.com, simple and easy way to share large family tree. Just zoom in and out on touchscreen.

Zoompast website looks outdated and not very popular, but it worked for me perfectly. The only cons is that it does not upload photos automatically.


There is now software recently developed by me; that will allow for creating and displaying several generations. Here is an example of a Photo Academic Family Tree. It features the professor on the base of the tree; who taught twenty-one students shown around the crown of the tree, and thirty-seven who they taught. In effect, it is a three generational family tree. See more at photofamilytree.comenter image description here

  • 1
    The question is about "Displaying exponentially growing family tree in practical way?". This seems to display three generations which falls far short of "each branch going back to approximately the French revolution".
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 19, 2019 at 5:24
  • The tree shown above was just an example. Of course, more generations can be displayed. The display software is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and currently is only limited by internal canvas size and commercial printer's output. The software's canvas size, in time, will be increased. However, this tree demonstrates that thirty-seven grandchildren have names, universities, and countries written on each leaf. Also, if one counts the named and unnamed leaves of the third generation children, one will see, that the tree has enough leaves for at least fifty-one named ancestor. Jan 25, 2019 at 20:06

This is what I've done with my family tree information... a snapshot of the timeline in a 360 view. Smaller trees would be easier to view details... this tree however is a monster.


  • Cindy Anderson, your family tree display is incredible! I love it! What software did you use to create it? I am a novice yet my family tree is nearing 2k people and still growing everyday. I also need a smart way to display it. You’ve inspired me! Jul 4, 2019 at 13:58

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