I started to draw my family tree.

Looking on Google I sometimes see brothers and sisters, father and mother, brothers and sisters, etc are drawn too, but after a while it becomes hard to draw the big picture.

Others does not include brothers and sister, and only plot parents like a tree.

What is the most common practice to plot as much info on picture as possible, without letting it become ugly?

3 Answers 3


The way I draw charts is to determine the 'boundary' of the chart by defining one or more starting-people and the directions I'll go from them. For example, for a chart aimed at me, my siblings, and my cousins on one side of the family, I'll include:

  1. my two grandparents on the relevant side of the family;
  2. all of their descendants; and
  3. all ancestors of their grandchildren.

Anyone that isn't included as a result of that formula is left out. So, no siblings of my grandparents, for example (which is why I actually usually go a step further, and use the four parents of my grandparents instead).

  • Re: "3. all ancestors of their grandchildren" - Or do you mean both parents of the grandchildren (i.e. all spouses of the children)? Definitely agree that the content and scope needs to be defined for static charts.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 13:59
  • No, you're quite right, I got that wrong! I meant all ancestors of their children actually. So that includes the two grandparents, but also a binary tree disappearing forever off above them. I'll fix the answer. Thanks! :)
    – Sam Wilson
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 23:28
  • Agh, no, now I'm confusing myself (why'm I writing this at this hour of a Saturday morning?!). The 'ancestors of grandchildren' stands: it's to ensure that all my cousin's ancestors (on that side of the family) are included. Points one and two are just to identify the correct grandchildren really, and don't result in all that many people being added to the tree.
    – Sam Wilson
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 23:32

It would depend on what sort of research you are doing or what you are wanting to show.

  1. Pedigree (Ancestors of a given individual), you quite often will leave off siblings of the direct ancestors to reduce the chart size

  2. Lineage (Only male or only female ancestors of a given individual), with this you have a bit more room to show siblings.

  3. Descendants, you will show all siblings that are descendant from the key individual, but maybe not half siblings from the spouse.

  4. One name studies. You would tend to concentrate on those with the surname, and tend to show reduced details of those without the surname.

None of the above are hard and fast rules though.

Quite often you can be doing more than one of the above and would therefore want to produce different charts depending on what you want to show.

In all cases you probably do want to record the siblings, as they help to verify your in formations accuracy. e.g. If an individuals parents have another child a few months apart then you probably have at least one of them attached to the wrong parents.


I think the most common practice nowadays is to store your family tree using software on your desktop or on the web.

That way you should have many options available for you to render it as whichever diagram you prefer. If it is too sparse you can include more details (brothers, sisters, etc), or if it is too cluttered you can reduce the details (just names rather than dates, spouse and siblings, etc).

There are some free printable family tree diagrams available from WikiTree but really the choice is yours, and will depend on any software you are using to store your tree and the options it offers.

You may want to get some more ideas from reviewing Q&As here that are tagged .

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