Trace Your Family History Back Through Time

Shortly after our one year wedding anniversary, we found ourselves preparing for my husband’s grandfather’s 96th birthday.  It would be the first time, since our wedding day, that we would see many of our out-of-town relatives.  In a way, it was like a mini-reunion.  I wanted to do something special.   Instead of buying him a present, I wanted to make one.  I wanted to make our family tree.  After several weeks of correspondence with relatives near and far, I had managed to gather enough information.  Once I had the information, creating the family tree took almost no time at all.

I’ll never forget Grandpa Russel’s reaction.  Grandpa was so excited.  He immediately requested his magnifying glass and sat there in awe.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I had made the first graphical representation of the family’s history.  I realized in that moment that this wasn’t just a gift from grandpa, it was a gift for the whole family.  Everyone loved it.


SmartDraw Tip: After creating the family tree, I used the Smart Panel Format controls to format the branches so that they would fit around the graphic I had chosen as my background.  Then, I used the Fill feature to assign a color to each generation.  

Through this experience, I discovered a number of ways to document one’s family history from family trees to genograms to ecomaps.  In this week’s post, we’ll take a closer look at a handful of sample diagrams that just might inspire you to explore your own family history.

Family Tree Diagram: Without Photos

A family tree diagram represents family relationships in a conventional tree structure.  The absence of photos allows for more information to be documented.  This is an important factor when the final format is to be printed.

Murphy fam tree3

SmartDraw Tip:  As a default, SmartDraw has the Use Compact Formatting feature selected.  This feature is an automatic setting that helps maintain the real estate of your work area as your diagram develops.  You may choose to be even more conservative with the space and want to make your diagram even more compact.  To achieve this, simply use the Vertical Spacing and Horizontal Spacing controls.

Family Tree Diagram: With Photos

If the family tree diagram is meant to be displayed and shared online, then conserving space is not an issue.  With that in mind, adding photos brings life to the family tree diagram and can prove to be educational when new members join the family.

Murphy fam tree7

SmartDraw Tip: As a best practice, you may choose to first create the family without photos.  This will give you an idea of the size of the tree.  To add a photo of a family member, select the family member’s shape.  Navigate to the SmartPanel’s Add Shapes section and select Add Picture.  The Insert Picture dialogue box appears.  Locate the photo and select Open.   To modify the photo’s appearance, simply double-click on the photo. You can zoom in and out as well as adjust the placement of the picture.

Genogram Diagram: Status

Genograms are used by various groups of people in a variety of fields such as medicine, psychology, social work, geneaology, genetic research and education.  This particular genogram indicates the marital status, living status, as well as miscarriages of the family.

genogram_murphy fam2

SmartDraw Tip: Located to the right of the SmartPanel, is Library Tab.  This is where the Genogram Symbol Library is located.  You have the ability to leverage the existing symbol library to create any number of genograms based on your preference of complexity.

Genogram Diagram: Medical Conditions

Genograms go beyond a traditional family tree.  They allow physicians  to analyze hereditary patterns.  A genogram diagram documents relationships and traits that may otherwise be missed on a pedigree chart.


SmartDraw Tip: This is an example of a genogram focused on a single trait.  When using a combination of symbols that may not be intuitive to your audience, it’s important to include a legend.

Ecomap Diagram: Family Counseling

Ecomap diagrams allow a therapist and their patient to quickly identify and understand various patterns in the client’s family history.  Ecomaps are used to portray Systems Theory that the therapist and client can look at during the session.  At the heart of the ecomap is the client (i.e. family or individual).  They are in the circle located at the center.  Family connections to all of the relevant systems, that play a role in the clients life, are shown as well.   They are either connected to the individual or to the entire circle by a particular type of line.


SmartDraw Tip: When using a combination of lines that may not be intuitive to your audience, it’s important to include a legend.  In this case, there is also a brief overview of what the ecomap is depicting in the bottom right corner.