Trimming Your Tree




but this sort of tree:


Over the next few weeks, the Blog and I will be concentrating on managing your family tree.

As you delve back further into your ancestry, your family tree grows ever more unwieldy unless you keep it organised.  As the time of writing, there are 908 names on my tree (should you feel so inclined, you can check it out at ); and when all these relatives are shown on one massive tree, it can be difficult to remember who is related to whom (or indeed to proudly display the fruits of your research).

Large trees can be difficult to print, as well: either the font size is too small to read comfortably, or you’re reduced to sticking sheets of A4 paper together, which can look a little amateurish.

If you want a hard copy of your tree, showing several branches and more than a few generations, you could consider having it printed professionally.  One company that can produce such a tree for you is Genealogy Printers ( who can print charts, in wide format on a single sheet of paper up to 42 inches tall (1067mm) by 50 feet (14 meters) long or on A3 banner paper up to 150 foot (60 meters) long.  They also offer a wide variety of formats.

Another – or an additional – way to organise your tree is by using a series of files.  I have one ‘master file’, showing direct lineage only:  I also have four separate files, one for the family of each of my grandparents.  

For ease of reference, I use a different coloured file for each of these four lines.  These always have a family tree chart showing direct lineage as the first page, and include handdrawn trees showing siblings and their families, certificates, photographs and various other items of information, such as cuttings from newspapers. 

Please remember:  you should always store certificates, photographs and other printed materials in acid-free file inserts rather than polypockets to avoid deterioration.

You can also add a narrative to the front of these files, which can be far more interesting for other members of the family  than looking at charts.

Once one of these coloured files is full (or I feel that the amount of information it contains is enough), I start another file using the same colour.

If you start this system early enough in your research, it takes very little time to organise, and makes finding (and filing!) information much easier.

Next week I’ll look at ‘stray’ names in your tree and how to keep track of them.

About kate

Experienced genealogist but virgin blogger...
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2 Responses to Trimming Your Tree

  1. Josh says:

    This is really useful! I really need to organize my family history. 2 questions for you: 1) Looking at your tree, and the number of gernerations you go back, do you really only use 4 subfolders?? 2) I’m sure on an earlier post you say we should never put original photos in an ordinary file pocket because of acid damage?

    • kate says:

      Hi Josh!

      You raise two very good questions.

      Firstly: you’re quite right. I have sub-subfolders as well. Without getting too confusing, as I say, each file has as its first page a basic ‘pedigree’ chart. The type which I use goes back 5 generations, and as soon as I have information going back beyond that 5th generation, another file is opened. I use the same colour for that surname – so, for example, my first subfolder for my Jones family is red, and every subsequent file for that family name is red: but as soon as I start to investigate the Evans family which married into the Jones’s, I open a new file in a different colour. Once I run out of colours, I have a system of coloured sticky dots on the spine of the file, as well as a label.

      Turning to your second question: again you’re quite right, and I should have mentioned this in my original post (which I’ll amend): the ordinary ‘polypockets’ which you can buy at any stationers contain an acid which over time will leach out and react with the ink used on photographs and other printed materials. Any precious documents should always be stored in acid-free file inserts, which you should be able to source quite easily.

      Thanks very much for pointing this out!

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