How to Chart Descendants

Family tree charts can be simple or detailed.
Hemera Technologies/ Images

Genealogy is a fun and addicting hobby -- it doesn't take long to accumulate a lot of information. Ancestry charts are a great way to distill key information into a visual representation of a family's history. There are charts and forms available that you can fill in or generate from genealogy software, but you can also create descendant charts by hand to create the look you want and include the specific information you desire. Start by choosing an ancestor whose descendants you want to chart, and create a diagram to represent his descendants. If you have some kids and grandchildren, you can do yourself.

Diagram Chart

Sketch the basic layout of the descendant chart lightly with a pencil. The oldest ancestors will be at the top, with subsequent generations flowing down toward the bottom of the paper. Leave enough space for each child and their spouses in the descendant generations.

Draw a blue rectangle about 3 inches by 2 inches at the top of the page. Draw a red circle about 2 1/2 inches in diameter to the right of the square. Write information about the male ancestor whose descendants you are charting in the blue rectangle. Include his name, date of birth and date of death. Write information about the male ancestor's wife in the red circle. Include her name, date of birth and date of death.

Draw a horizontal line connecting the rectangle and circle. Use a ruler to make the line straight. This line designates that the pair were married. Write the date of marriage above the horizontal line if you wish.

Draw a vertical line extending down from the horizontal line. Draw a long horizontal line at the bottom of the vertical line. Make this line as long as necessary to cover all of the children of the starting couple.

Add a blue rectangle for each of the male children and a red circle for each of the female children under the horizontal line. Connect each rectangle and circle to the horizontal line with a small vertical hash mark. List the children in order of their birth, with the oldest child on the left and the youngest child on the right. Leave adequate space to the right of each child to add a spouse. Write the name, birth date and death date for each child in the rectangles and circles.

Add blue rectangles and red circles next to each child to depict their spouses. Write in the pertinent information about each spouse, and draw a horizontal line between each married couple.

Add vertical lines extending from each horizontal line that signifies a marriage. Continue the process of adding children, spouses and subsequent generations in the same manner as the first generation. You may need to stagger some of the generations to make them fit on one page.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper or cardstock
  • Fine-tip marker
  • Colored pencils
  • Ruler


  • A descendant chart will quickly fill up your page. Limit your chart to about four generations to avoid running out of space. A vertical descendant chart is one of many ways you can visually represent a family tree. You can orient your chart from left to right if you prefer, rather than top to bottom. Or you can create a fan descendant chart with the oldest ancestors at the center of the fan and subsequent generations extending out from the center in a half circle. Another common descendant chart is the Ahnentafel chart, which is a written, numbered chart that can show ancestors or descendants. Each person in the chart is assigned a number, starting with the number 1 for the first person on the chart. His children are assigned sequential numbers starting with 2 and their children are assigned sequential numbers beginning with next available number. Often narrative paragraphs about each person are added to Ahnentafel charts.