What is a Family Tree?

Many people ask the question "what is a family tree" when they are interested in pursuing a search into their own family's past. The next question that usually follows is "what is my family tree," since this is what individuals will really want to learn about.

First, what is a family tree? A family tree is a chart that maps lineage, usually of a particular person, as far back as records allow. A family tree often begins with the current generation and works backwards. A family tree can also mean starting with the oldest known generation and working forwards.

What is my family tree worth in value? Your family tree might not have intrinsic value, but understanding who your ancestors were and where they came from can help give you a sense of your roots. This wasn't always the case for people who asked "what is my family tree?" For example, in Germany during the early twentieth century, the question "what is a family tree" often caused fear, as the Nazis used family trees to identify those with ancestors that excluded them from the "master race" (like Jews). Even today, the question "what is my family tree" is seldom asked by Germans who consider family trees an invasion of privacy.

However, in many other countries, particularly in the U.S., finding out what is a family tree is a source of pride. Learning when your ancestors came to the U.S. and from where are important parts of answering the question, "what is my family tree?" Asking what is a family tree is the first step towards discovering the best way to outline your ancestors. Also, asking what is a family tree means learning how a family tree depicts your family line, typically displaying the present generation and then spreading out to show subsequent generations. The finished shape resembles the fullness of a tree.

Who is in My Family Tree?

Once the question "what is a family tree" has been answered, most people want to learn, "who is in my family tree?" Answering the question "who is in my family tree" typically begins with the people you know, like your parents and grandparents. Siblings are typically included as well. Answering the question "who is in my family tree" doesn't necessarily extend past direct lines, such as grandparents, great grandparents, etc. However, including extended family members like aunts, uncles and cousins is perfectly acceptable, as these relatives are part of your family history.

When you literally answer the question, "who is in my family tree," you could find yourself working with a lot of names. This is when using family tree software program is useful. Also, you might discover that the answer to "who is in my family tree" includes step-parents, half-siblings and multiple marriages for a single person. It is your decision how to answer "who is in my family tree" to your satisfaction. Whether you include extended family members or stick to a single surname is your decision. Answering "what is my family tree" might include several trees to show the various branches of your family. It's entirely up to you!

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