The Prettiest Family Trees (And How to Make Them Happen)

June 14, 2011

Here’s a post I worked on with Yahoo Mail! about putting together a family tree. I love learning my family history and think a genealogy display is a fabulous addition to any house. Sometimes I daydream about commissioning one in the same style as Norman Rockwell’s above. Wouldn’t that be rad?

If you’d like to create a family history display, I’ve got 3 tips to get you started, plus links to some of my favorite designs.

1) Start with what you know. Write down your name, Mom’s name, Dad’s name, Grandma and Grandpa, etc. Don’t get discouraged if you only know a few names.

2) Email your Great Aunt Helen who knows all about this stuff. It might not actually be your aunt, it might be your cousin or your Dad or your Uncle-you’ve-never-met. But there is a really good chance you’ve got a relative that’s already started the research, and she’ll be more than happy to share what she knows. You can probably find out most of what you need in a few email exchanges.

3) Join in the search yourself. Use sites like and to see what else you can find. Starting to feel like an expert? Feel free to go deeper — email your hometown county clerk and request birth, marriage and death certificates to confirm dates and places.

Once you’ve got your information gathered, you can turn your attention to the prettier parts of the task: Choosing your display design. Here are some I love to recommend: ModernTraditional. Shadowbox. Kid-friendlyFormalContemporary.

How about you? Are you curious about your family history? Do you have a display? Any other tips or sources we should know about?


This is part 2 of a 3-part-series sponsored by Yahoo! Mail.

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sandi June 14, 2011 at 9:12 am

One wall in my grandson’s nursery is chalkboard paint, and my son drew a family tree on it. He completed it with pictures framed in Polaroid-style frames. So creative! You can see a picture of it here:
(the colorful swans are not part of the family tree; they’re in a mobile hanging in front of it)


2 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Sandi! That is fantastic. I love the photos! They seem like a super creative couple. And your grandbaby is adorable!


3 becki June 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Adorable family tree!


4 Jacqueline Kearney June 15, 2011 at 4:30 am

I loved the family tree, the baby and the couple. I looked at the wedding photo link too! Gorgeous! So creative! Thanks for sharing.


5 The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful June 14, 2011 at 9:34 am

My Mormon stepmom will be over the moon about this post. She’s more interested in my genealogy than I am. I think she’s trying to understand the genetic component to my inability to ever be appropriate.


6 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm



7 bdaiss June 14, 2011 at 9:48 am

I love family trees. I’ve been putting off having one made for each of my kids just because I can’t make up my mind what design I like best! Might be time to make a pinterest board! : )


8 Barchbo June 14, 2011 at 10:16 am

I am buying that print! With my strawberry blonde hair, my husband’s brown and our little redhead – the top is perfect! Thanks for the lead!



9 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Oh my goodness! You must get a print Barchbo. Perfect!


10 Cara June 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

I am currently filling in a 10 generation fan chart (the second picture). Although I am doing it myself, when I was researching fan charts I found you can send her your family information and for a fee she will fill in the chart for you.


11 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Thanks for the link, Cara. So helpful!


12 Erin June 14, 2011 at 10:19 am

We did one of these fingerprint family trees for my youngest nephew’s baby shower, and it’s so cute! Looks fab framed in the nursery:×14



13 Sandi June 14, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I love this! Thanks for sharing the link.


14 MMW June 14, 2011 at 10:44 am

The best thing…is that my Great Aunt Helen IS actually the family historian. I LOVE the name you randomly chose.


15 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

That is hilarious, MMW! Please send her my regards. : )


16 Amy June 14, 2011 at 11:14 am

This unique idea works for an immediate family tree.

“Families are photographed individually and then sized and printed at the same proportions. The two photographs are manually torn and glued together to make one portrait investigating the visual DNA passed from generation. ”

Definitely worth a look:


17 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Sounds so interesting, Amy! Off to check out the link…


18 Sarah @ Knit York City June 14, 2011 at 11:16 am

Those are so gorgeous! I’ll never forget when I was young I found a lovely, huge family tree that was framed but none of the names had been filled in! It’s always been my dream to do the research and complete it!


19 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm

What a treasure that must have been to find! I hope you get the chance to fill it in.


20 Danika June 14, 2011 at 11:34 am

I just finished a Medical Family Tree! I always blank when a dr asks me something like, “Any history of hypertension in your family?” Now I don’t have to. I was concerned some people wouldn’t want to share but I found they were all very supportive and candid, especially when I promised them a copy of the finished product :)


21 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I’ve never heard of a medical family tree, but it makes sense!


22 creole wisdom June 14, 2011 at 11:43 am

Well, this post is a winner for me because I love Rockwell, family history and of course, pretty family trees.

I took a class one summer at BYU and that really helped, but I agree with asking relatives. I interviewed my grandpa before he passed away in 2005. That was very helpful. is good, too.

I made a pretty tree from a kit and gave it to my dad for Christmas. He loved it.


23 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

It’s such a great thing to give as a gift! If you have siblings, it can become a fun group project with everybody searching out a few names.


24 Ana June 14, 2011 at 11:57 am

Pretties EVER! I love it.


25 Tejal Mehta June 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Thank you for this post! I have been obsessing over doing a family tree for months! I especially love the links you provided. I will have to look in to those! YOU ROCK!!


26 Design Mom June 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

You’re welcome, Tejal! Glad I could help.


27 Jaime June 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I’m coming out of lurking to tell you how much I <3 this post. Thanks!!


28 JennieM June 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Thanks for this wonderful information. That is really cozy tree. I do love genealogy and this will be fun to add to my ever growing files. Love it.


29 JourneyBeyondSurvival June 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Happy Birthday!

My little family has Blackbeard in my husband’s line! This is a fantastic print!


30 Genevieve June 14, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I have been researching my family tree and had not thought about a wall display, but now you got me thinking! Love the modern one and the kid friendly one! Thanks, Gabrielle!


31 Olivia June 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Loving this post. I’m the “keeper of the tree” in our family and I also happen to be a designer, so pretty family trees (especially love those mod ones) are my cup of tea! Feeling very inspired–thank you :)


32 Design Mom June 15, 2011 at 1:26 am

I love the mod ones too!


33 Anita June 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Fabulous! Love that link to the nursery/polaroid/origami creation.

We have a split staircase going down to the basement, so I’ve framed my family photos going down one side and my husband’s going down the other to create a photo family tree, you can see them here on my blog:


34 Design Mom June 15, 2011 at 1:30 am

What a fun idea, Anita!


35 Alana Powers June 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I LOVE this and have been dying to do something like this. I am watching you and your beautiful family on House Hunters International! I hope to be in that area in the next year!


36 Lori June 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm

I got the best Christmas gift ever last year.
My plan is to fill up the wall around it with photos–of our current family and many ancestors–in a variety of sizes.
So far every family member that’s seen it has gotten misty-eyed, it’s so beautiful.


37 Design Mom June 15, 2011 at 1:32 am

I think it would make me misty-eyed too! That tree was designed by Jill Means — I went to design school with her.


38 Nicole June 15, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Sooooo gorgeous! Lucky you!


39 SarahWT June 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm

I love the Norman Rockwell you used with this post! :) This painting always fascinated me as a girl.


40 Design Mom June 15, 2011 at 1:29 am

I love that one side of the family seems to wild and adventurous and the other so puritan and reserved. Such a great drawing!


41 Erin June 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Hi Design Mom! I’m here in NYC and I think we have a bunch of friends in common… it’s a small world eh? Anyway, I’m a big fan of yours from afar. :)
This is such a beautiful post! We feel so strongly about family history and I wanted to share the family trees that my husband designed- what do you think?

Here’s the link:


42 Design Mom June 15, 2011 at 1:28 am

Gorgeous, Erin! Your husband’s designs are wonderful.


43 Bonnie@Whataboutpie June 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm

I’m very interested in my family tree. My mother did a little research for our tree years ago and gave me a copy. Now you’ve got me thinking!!! where is that copy! I will have to go on a hunt! I think it would really be fun to make a creative, artistic family tree painting!


44 LadyL @ MomReads June 15, 2011 at 4:02 am

I spent hours searching for my ideal family tree display before I finally found a one that “stuck” on me! Here’s the winner:


45 Malia O. June 15, 2011 at 6:09 am

Thanks so much for this post. It’s such good timing. My husband has been researching his family history on ancestry. What I great why to showcase all his hard work and research.


46 Hayley June 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm

My husband works at … we like to watch the TV Show they sponsor called Who Do You Think You Are? Its so great and entertaining! Its like a mystery movie!


47 Design Mom June 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I’ve totally seen that show! I saw an episode with Sarah Jessica Parker and a few others from the first season. It’s so good!


48 Suni June 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm

LOVE family history and finding fun ways to display those photos that always seem to get stuck in a box in the basement closet! These family trees are amazing! The one I have displayed at my house right now is a magnet family tree. It’s great for the kids – they can take all the faces off and re-create their own ancestry using the face magnets. We love telling the stories of those who went before! Here is one of many blog posts that features the Magnetic Family Tree:

Thanks for sharing all of these wonderful designs!!!


49 Melissa June 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I’m wondering where you got the picture of the shadow box tree and if there is a tutorial?


50 Design Mom June 16, 2011 at 6:55 am

Hi Melissa! That image originally came from a Martha Stewart article, but I could not find it online. The DIY used a real tree branch with paper leaves attached. I hope that helps!

If anyone has a link to the Martha instructions, please do share!


51 Jen June 15, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Wow thanks for including us in this round up! Nice to rub shoulders with other great work.


52 maria June 16, 2011 at 5:48 am

Really enjoying this post and all the links shared ..thanks for the great ideas.
From my own experience with family history research, speaking with relatives + the message forums helps you connect with others searching for the same thing.
Plus the census data that is released can sometimes shed interesting facts as well as the Ellis Island data (searchable online). I found my great-grandfathers name on the passenger list…includes how much money he had in his pocket…$40, can you imagine landing in a new country with $40 (though it went much farther than today-still) :)


53 Design Mom June 16, 2011 at 6:54 am

$40? My stomach just dropped. That must have been so exciting/scary for him.


54 Michelina September 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I have been “playing” with family trees for a while now, but I always love to see how other people design their own. These are some very cute ones!

If you’d like to view some of my takes on family trees, here is the link:

It spans through various blog posts, as I have created quite a few family trees, in various formats and for various purposes.

I would love to know your opinion about them.


55 Liana October 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I am trying to do a family tree using kraft brown paper and little labels with information. i am having trouble with the first part i have over 150 names to put on the family tree. any suggestions


56 Janet Balcomb October 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I had misspelled my email on the last post. The spelling is:


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