Living Family Trees

mini blog for FamilyTreeTops.com

Family trees are a fascinating hobby and personal to everyone.  We all have ancestors.  They can be divided into maternal or paternal.  So, you really have two family trees.  Your mother has two family trees, and your father has two family trees, who each have two. We begin to get the picture of family relationships / growth from that simple fact.  Your choice is to pick which side to work on first.


Some cultures preserve both father and mother’s surname.  If you look up “surname” in Wikipedia, you will find information about many cultures, including Spanish speaking countries who compound their mother and father’s last names. Because of the way surnames are passed down, it may be easier to start with your father’s family, and you may have his surname as your own.  Your mother’s tree will contain her father’s name but also hers, which may be her maiden name now. The ancestry you choose to follow is combined, but on two basic backward-branching charts.  One of the most fascinating things about genealogy is how people are related.  But because so many people live in the world, we are mostly unrelated.  The graphic below illustrates the vastness of genealogy if one goes back many generations.

Ancestry Tree – Fractal_canopy by Claudio Rocchini

Practical Matters

For simplicity sake, lets use a paternal family tree to begin.  Suppose you know that you are a direct descendant of George Washington (the first U.S. president).  Your last name is Washington and he is your 10th great grandfather.  That is going to be a difficult tree to produce, primarily because there are so many generations to illustrate.  However, let’s say that your great grandfather is Walter Washington born in 1920.  Walter is only four generations back from you and that would require you, your parents, your grandparents, and of course Walter and his wife, Wanda, to fit in your family tree, along with all the cousins, aunts, and uncles along the way.  There may be 100 people or 300 people, depending how many children and grandchildren Walter and Wanda had.  So, from a practical standpoint, were going to limit what we design to four generations.  Still, it is difficult to show long or wide sets of family members in a horizontal bracket (like baseball teams) or a vertical diagram (like a flowchart).

Family Tree Tops

If you check the definition of “family tree” in Wikipedia, you will find there is an alternative to the typical horizontal or pedigree methods to contain your family members.  Try to visualize a circle with Walter and Wanda Washington in the center.  Their children appear around them in another circle, and their grandchildren are shown in another circle outside of that, and their great grandchildren appear along the outermost circle.  The circles act as generations or approximate dates: 1940 – 1960 – 1980 – 2000 – 2020.  Now, let’s make the tree!  Connect lines (branches) from Walter and Wanda’s children to their children.  Then connect lines from their grandchildren to their great grandchildren.  If you look down at the top of a tree, you see branches spreading from the center, and dividing, and dividing again.  Like so:

Family Tree Tops Design

Where to Begin

So, that’s a lot to think about – but it’s really very simple – and you know most of the people in your tree. Knowing the people in your tree is why you want to make a family tree.  You would like to show them and your children how they relate to you and others in your family.  In fact, you can make your family tree into beautiful art or ancestor photo overlays with Family Tree Tops at https://familytreetops.com

Step 1. Enter your ancestry through any of the genealogy software available online.  Examples: myheritage.com, legacyfamilytree.com, ancestry.com.  You should focus on your paternal side or your maternal side but not mix them together.

Step 2. Save your data to a GEDCOM (genealogy data communications) file.  Every program has that option as it is a form of backup. This data should be kept private as you will be including living family members.  Descendant family trees contain the people you know from your ancestor forward.  Ancestral family trees go backwards in time from you to your ancestors.

Step 3.  Contact Family Tree Tops at https://familytreetops.com  There you will receive a free consult about the design of your family tree and what you would like to use for background art, or an ancestor or wedding photo.  Example art images can be found at https://familytreetops.com/bwg_gallery-gallery/ or in many of the posts at https://familytreetops.com/wordpress-art-blog/


All of the methods used are technology based.  The output from Family Tree Tops is produced with AutoCAD and Adobe Creative Suite at high resolution.  Photographic quality printing and framing is available through Family Tree Tops.  All files are kept private, secure and off-line.


The development of your genealogy data must be done by you as a hobbyist or by a genealogy specialist for you.  The import of your GEDCOM data to the Family Tree Tops design is proprietary and the top-down view in the shape of tree branching out is copyrighted by Family Tree Tops.  The cost, including printing, runs from $149 for 100 names, to $349 for 300 names.  Custom designs take from two to four weeks to produce proof copies for you. The print sizes can vary from 18” x 18” to 36” x 36”.  Transactions take place through  https://www.amazon.com/handmade/Family-Tree-Tops/