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5 Reasons to make a family tree with your family

Gordana Simic | Shutterstock

Merche Crespo - published on 10/31/21

It's both entertaining and beneficial to dedicate some time to delving into your family’s past.

A family tree is a visual tool that represents the generations of your family. Here are some helpful tips and a few reasons to create a family tree.

1It’s a tribute to those who came before us

There’s no doubt that doing this activity is a tribute to the memory of all those who have gone before us and who, with their lives, have contributed to the growth of our family history.

In a meeting of Pope Francis with the elderly in September 2014, he stated,

A people who does not take care of grandparents, who does not treat them well has no future! Why does it have no future? Because such a people loses its memory and is torn from its roots. But beware: it is your responsibility to keep these roots alive in yourselves with prayer, by reading the Gospel and with works of mercy. In this way we will remain as living trees, that even in old age will not stop bearing fruit. One of the most beautiful aspects of family life, of our human life as a family, is caressing a baby and being caressed by a grandfather and a grandmother.

More recently, the First World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly was celebrated with the theme, “I am with you always.” This day, close to the feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, has been instituted by Pope Francis to show closeness, solidarity and recognition towards grandparents and elderly people.

Tip: We need to be interested in our elders not just on paper as part of a family tree, but as people. As Pope Francis reminds us, “it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and not feel alone.”

2It’s a family activity that brings us together

Creating a family tree is the perfect excuse to involve all members of a family and helps strengthen intergenerational bonds.

Talk to your grandparents, consult your aunts and uncles, your in-laws, or even your neighbors or closest friends—you might be surprised who can contribute names, dates or interesting facts!

During vacations or holidays—a time when we have family gatherings—making our family tree can be a very enriching opportunity for conversation. It’s certainly better and less conflictive than talking about politics!

We can take advantage of shared meals to ask our elders about their family memories, anecdotes, or circumstances the family has gone through.

Tip: Of course, always have paper and pencil at hand. Write down any information that could be part of the family tree. After a few days, share a draft so that the rest of the family members can point out changes or improvements in the structure of your work.

3IT DEVELOPS OUR RESEARCH SKILLS

Before starting to elaborate a family tree, the wisest thing to do is to draw up a work plan.

Think about how far you want to go: the 3rd, 4th, 5th generation or even further. If you have adopted children, use a family tree plan that acknowledges both birth and adoptive relatives. Plan how much information you want to enter, apart from names and dates of birth and death of each relative.

It’s fun and interesting to add an appendix including photographs, anecdotes, or even recipes. The more information you add, the more value you bring to your tree!

In the end, with all the information carefully researched, your family timeline will be left for your children, grandchildre,n and generations to come.

WOMAN, OLD, PHOTOS

Gathering, sorting, double-checking and evaluating the information requires patience, critical sense, and sometimes careful discernment to determine what information is reliable and to avoid mistakes, such as confusing people with the same name in different generations or branches of the family. Get your children involved: these are skills that will serve them (and you) in many ways.

Tip: Occasionally you may discover information about a family member that may not be appropriate to publish. It’s necessary to be discreet, sensitive and empathetic with the lives of others.

4 IT HELPS FOSTER CREATIVITY, ORDER AND CLARITY

As we’ve explained, a family tree is an instrument that allows us to describe and list the members of a family in a simple way, but it must be ordered chronologically.

Moreover, it should be displayed in a graphic and ingenious way, so that anyone can understand it, especially children. For them, making a family tree with their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, etc. can be a fun experience.

Visiting the attic, the basement or the trunk of memories of a house in search of documents can become the greatest adventure! Combining the photographs and documents, the stories and memories of living family members, etc., is an opportunity for creativity.

Tip: As with any project, personal or professional, it would be good to come up with a title that captures our work. For this reason, involve the family and together think of a name or a slogan to designate your family tree: “The Smith-Jones Family,” “Our saga,” “Past, present and future,” “Our family, the best team …”

5YOU WILL FIND ANSWERS TO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOURSELVES

By knowing your family background—anecdotes, achievements, adventures, traditions—you can understand details about yourselves. In fact, the history of a family is also the history of each of its members.

Tip: For children at home, this type of activity can help them understand more quickly about their relationship with their ancestors, beyond mom and dad. They learn to distinguish family roles and even forge their own identity as we let them participate in the elaboration of the tree with their drawings.

There are many free tools (or tools with free limited tiers) available in the form of websites, apps, and templates. Just to give a few examples, FamilySearch and Ancestry.com have vast genealogical databases with some data available for free, as well as online family tree generation tools, and Canva offers this family tree maker.

Although it’s helpful to use online tools, the best way to create the tree as a family is to let the youngsters of the house draw or create the family tree in their own way, which will surely be creative and fun.

Certainly, it will be time and effort well invested, and a work that will remain for posterity.

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