October 1, 2018 Brigitte Ganger

Creating a Family Tree for a Memorial

Displaying your family lineage at a relative's funeral

Creating a Family Tree for a Memorial
Your family history is worth preserving for the knowledge of future generations. Start your own genealogy research today. (Shutterstock)

Family time

Funerals are often a time for family members to reconnect. Displaying an updated family tree at the memorial reception is a nice touch for those who are interested in their family history. 

The study of families

Genealogy is the study of family history and lineage. This kind of research is meaningful to those who undertake it for a variety of reasons. The study of families combines all the method and analysis of academic research with the personal relevance of helping the researcher to understand their own family history. 

A family tree can be basic or complex. You will be amazed as the kinds of history you can uncover about your family, but the results may be out of your control. Family secrets and mysteries may impede (or enrich) your research. 

What is a family tree?

A family tree is a diagram showing a family's lineage, usually including marriages, births, deaths and connections between related families. 

Getting information

People who create family trees often rely on information from various sources in order to fill in the blanks of their family history. If you are embarking on your own genealogy project, expect to look for information from sources such as:

  • Living memory

A lot of family history research begins with referring to the memories of those who can attest to stories from the past. Talk to your living relatives, tell them about your research and ask them about your family, and the past. 

  • Family records

Ask family members if they know of any family documents, photo albums or letters that you can consult for the purposes of your research. An old box of paperwork can be a treasure trove of information!

  • Internet research

The internet is a great place to look for information at any stage of your journey. You can use Google to help you research your family. If you are interested in getting detailed family history research, beyond the scope of simply creating a family tree, you can sign up with genealogy websites such as Ancestry.com to connect to research that already exists in family history databases.

  • Library research

If you have consulted your family members for stories and records, you may be satisfied with your search and able to complete your family tree. If you still have unanswered questions, or wish to make a very detailed family tree, take your research to the library. Old newspapers, archives and articles may help you confirm details you learned from family, and provide more information. If your ancestors lived in other cities or countries, you may have to consult the local library in the places where they lived.

  • Court or government records

You can request birth, death and marriage records from a local courthouse. If this information is not accessible online, you might need to take a trip to the courthouse to request information. 

You can also find criminal or civil court matters that involved your ancestors, which can be invaluable for family history research. 

This kind of information isn't always immediately available, so call ahead to find out the individual court's process for record requests. 

  • Obituaries

Obituaries offer a wealth of information to family history researchers. When someone dies and their survivors decide to publish their life story in a newspaper or online, they create a record for future generations. This record can give you lots of  insight into the life of the deceased person, their survivors and predecessors. This is some of the most crucial information you will need in the construction of your family tree.  

If you have recently lost a loved one, consider creating an obituary that celebrates the life they lived. List all of their relatives, loved ones—both living and dead—to provide an accurate record for future generations of family history researchers, like you.

Create an Obituary

Creating your own family tree

Use a template like this one to help you lay out your own family tree. There are many free templates available online to help you get started. (Shutterstock)

1. Start with immediate family. 

Use your knowledge of your immediate family to begin drafting out your family tree. If you're using a tree that grows vertically, put your parents above you and your siblings. Your children go below you, and your grandchildren will go below them. Similarly, great grandparents go above your parents, and so forth.

2. Add extended family

Add your aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family to the tree. This is where the branches can get wider and wider. Any connection by birth or marriage (including common-law) should be included if known. 

3. Include linked families

If there was a significant amount of family history information available, you may find your tree branching into other families that are linked to yours through blood lines or marriage. You can continue building the tree, tracing other linked lineages, if you wish.

Creating a family tree for a memorial service. 

The steps above helped you create a family tree for you, but what if this diagram is intended to be displayed at the memorial service of a loved one?

If you are directly related to the deceased person, their family tree might not be much different from yours. To create a deceased loved one's family tree, put their name at the center of the tree, and build the branches out from there. This way, all of the history that is pertinent to them is included in the tree. 


There are many free family tree templates available online. Find one that is visually appealing, and helps you clearly lay out your family history research. If you have created a basic family tree with immediate and extended family, you may not need a large or expansive template in order to display your findings. If your research encompasses other linked families, you may need a larger tree with space for more details. 

History of generations

Undertaking a genealogy project to display a family tree at a loved one's memorial service is the perfect chance to discover your own roots. At a time when family may want to share stories and memories from the past, creating a diagram of your family connections is a meaningful way to display your lineage. This resource is for you, your family and future generations of relatives who wish to examine their own family history.

Your loved one had a remarkable life. Tell their story, and we’ll publish it online for free.

After creating an online memorial, you can also publish in print in any of over 6,000 newspapers across North America.

Get started for free

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