How to keep track of cousins on a family tree?

I have a rather large family and we have a reunion each year. This year I am making printouts of our tree and I want to somehow show first cousins, second cousins...... as so on. It gets confusing and I know it doesn't really matter, but one of the younger kids asked who all their cousins were and I thought I would try to make a visual on the tree to make it easier. Does anyone have an easy way for me to put these together? Or at least explain exactly how to determine the "stages" of cousins lol. Thanks!

5 Answers

  • 8 years ago
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    You'll need a descendants chart (the roots of the tree) instead of an ancestral chart (the limbs of the tree).

    Start with the last (not the earliest) generation you all share in common. List the children of this family, their spouses, and their children. It's like writing an outline for a paper.

    Grandma and Grandad Smith married 1924 and had three children. Earl, Carl, and Philip.

    I. Earl Smith married Louise Hotchkins and had two children, Bobby and Anna.

    ___A. Bobby Smith married Lauren and had a baby girl, Tina.

    ___B. Anna Smith married Tray Williams and had no children.

    II. Carl Smith married Pepper Taylor and had no children.

    III. Philip Smith married Lonnie Gore and had five children, Dillon, Sean, Harry, Candace, and Virginia.

    ___A. Dillon Smith married Patricia Reece and had two children, Carla and Kirby.

    ______1. Carla marriied...

    ___B. Sean Smith marr...

    Once you have all the facts from your family, you can make the chart. Programs can do it for you but I like the artistic method. First, count the number of generations you need on your chart. Double the number and draw that many lines across a piece of paper. Every other row represents a generation and the rows in between are where you draw the connecting lines from children to parent.

    On the top row, you'll have your great great grandparents, Grandma and Grandad Smith.

    The third row will have the three children, Earl, Carl, and Philip evenly spaced. Write in the first box Earl Smith + Louise Hotchkins. The second box will have Carl Smith + Pepper Taylor.

    In the fifth row, you'll need seven evenly spaced boxes. The first two boxes belong to Earls kids, the last five boxes belong to Phillip's kids.

    For the last row, you'll have a lot of kids and most of them won't be married. (Or you'll have a couple of new babies and a lot of empty space :P) Just evenly space them and connect them to their parental box. Don't be afraid to make a row larger and write names side ways if one of the generations has a lot of people in it.

    Once you have the template you can add artistic touches and get them copied. It's one of my favorite projects every few years for reunions. I love adding all the new babies and seeing the chart get crazy big.

    Good luck (and sorry for the first answer, I had to leave and come back ;)

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  • 8 years ago

    There's several formats available, all have their own purpose depending on what you're trying to show and can get messy as soon as there's a remarriage, adoption, marriage between related persons, etc. Someone might get hurt if they aren't included. Genealogical software organizes databases and will print each of the different types of reports. Free & reasonably priced software is available at

    My suggestion would be to do a big fancy artistic tree of a simple version, but then also make a book with the reports generated from a software program that folks can flip through. The reports can take a little bit of training to figure out how to read.

    For the poster version, keep it to the 3 or 4 generations that would be present at the reunion. Google images search for "family tree template" will give you some ideas for a poster format. If you're proficient at Word or Powerpoint, you can use SmartArt to design/layout the tree using a flow chart.

    Start with the common ancestors (grandparents or great grandparents). On the next line show their children with spouses. Then do the same thing on the next line. Use a different type of line connecting children and spouses, and symbols that show things like divorce. Place a cousin chart next to the tree so people can find themselves on the tree and figure out for themselves what kind of a cousin they are to the person next to them. A sample is available at:

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  • Sorry to disappoint you, but ahnentafel, genealogy, ancestry, family tree, and all those other terms mean just that: your ancestors. The only persons included in a family tree are: your parents, their parents, their parents, and so on, back to Adam & Eve.

    I am descended from Mayflower passengers; I am also descended from Germanna Colonists (and a lot of other Colonies). Each of my ancestors from those Colonies have millions of descendants; therefore, I have millions of cousins.

    My maternal grandmother's half-sister has more than a thousand descendants.

    Since your query is aimed at cousins:

    1st cousins share a set of grandparents;

    2nd cousins share a set of great-grandparents;

    3rd cousins share a set of great-great-grandparents;

    and so on. The degree of cousinship is always one less than the number of generations back to a common ancestor.

    If you are 3 generations away from common ancestors and your cousin is 4 generations away from those same common ancestors, you are second cousins, once removed.

    You can be half cousins: your grandfather married, had children, his wife died, he re-married. You are descended from the grandfather and his first wife; a cousin is descended from the same grandfather and his second wife.

    You can be double-first cousins: that means that you and your cousin both share both sets of grandparents.

    Some people include "cousins-in-law", which are the cousins of your spouse.

    But, it really doesn't matter: they are not your ancestors and therefore have no place on a "family tree". You can place them on family sheets, which would also include siblings, aunts, and uncles.

    What would be better, for the purposes of family reuntions, would be to simply have an address book...but showing relationships.

    Source(s): life
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  • 8 years ago

    You'll have to pick a single couple - your common great grandparents. Then print a big chart, either by sending what we call a GEDCOM to a commercial company or buying a roll of butcher paper and doing it by hand in colored felt tip pens, or, if your program has a multi-page chart utility, print it off and tape it together. In Roots Magic, what they call a "Wall Chart" looks like what you need.

    Why do you need to pick a single ancestral couple? Because who is what to whom varies. Alice, Bob and Carol may be second cousins to you, but they are first cousins to Dan, Ed and Frank, and brothers and sisters to each other.

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  • 8 years ago

    Most genealogical programs will "track" cousins through extended family lineage

    Source(s): Genealogical researcher 40+ years
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