Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Family tree is a metaphor used to describe ancestral family relationships. A family tree is a way of thinking about and visualizing those relationships. Like a tree, families have roots and branches: roots referring to ancestors and branches referring to descendants. Just as roots give life to the tree, so do ancestors give life to their descendants, drawing from them physical traits and family characteristics. A pedigree chart is visual representation of the family tree; the goal is to show the hierarchy of a family and who descends from whom.
The family tree or pedigree chart typically shows limited detail, often just the name, birth, death, and marriage dates. A pedigree chart is one of the most commonly used genealogy forms, providing a map to show the family at a glance, as opposed to another commonly used form, the family group record, that provides space for details on each family represented in the chart. Family trees can be found in baby books and family Bibles; they can be simple illustrations or elaborate decorations suitable for framing. More elaborate family trees and pedigree charts can extend back dozens of generations.