How to Construct an Anthropological Family Tree Diagram

The anthropological family tree diagram is both similar and different than the genealogical family tree. The anthropological family tree is usually called a kinship chart but it can also be called a genealogy chart. Both types of diagrams are family trees.

Family tree connections

A family tree consists of a drawing showing the connections between family members such as marriages, divorces, children, siblings or brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and great grandparents.

A genealogical family tree can go as far back into the family as a person can research showing ancestors from both sides of the family or from just one side of the family.

Patrilineal or matrilineal

If the family tree is patrilineal, it will only show members from the father’s side of the family. If the family tree is matrilineal, it will show the maternal ancestors. There are different descent patterns used by different cultures, but the descent pattern used by western cultures is usually either matrilineal or patrilineal. [1]

Anthropological family trees are usually represented by symbols, and the way to construct the diagram for the anthropological family tree or kinship chart is to draw up a chart using the symbols that anthropologists use.

To begin your anthropological family tree chart, you will first need to do research about members of your family. The best way to do this is to interview your oldest family members. Be sure to ask as many questions as possible, because although only symbols will go on the chart, you will want to keep a record of all information you found out by interviewing your family members.

It is good to keep this information about your family members in case you will be doing a genealogical family tree chart some day either to qualify for joining an organization that requires a professional genealogy chart such as DAR or SAR, to just develop a genealogical family tree to show off in your home, or perhaps to include in a book about your family.

You might also want to compile and keep any medical information about family members to help your medical doctor understand causes for illnesses you might contract or be susceptible to due to instances within the family. Once you have collected all your information, you are ready to start your anthropological family tree diagram. The anthropological family tree diagram consists of relationships between parents, children, grandparents,cousins, and all relatives you can find out about by doing your research.

Normally with the anthropological family tree, all relatives, both patrilineal and matrilineal are included, but a genealogical family tree is either patrilineal or matrilineal. However, as the anthropologist, one can construct the diagram according to how the culture is organized. [1]

You are now ready to construct your diagram, but you will now need paper large enough for a complete diagram. Large drawing paper or any large piece of paper will be the best.

First, start with putting the symbol for your ego or yourself in the middle of the page. From there you begin adding the connections showing descent. [1]

The symbol for ego is usually a square but can also be the symbol for male (a triangle) or female (a circle). [2]

You will then draw straight vertical lines to the parents who are male (a triangle) and female (a circle) connected by an equals sign. Continue up the chart with the parents of your parents who are your grandparents. You may also abbreviate the male and female symbols with the following abbreviations: mother (mo), father (fa), grandfather (grfa), and grandmother (grmo), and so on. You can make your own abbreviations if you like. [2] [5]

Horizontal straight lines will include all the siblings or your brothers and sisters, which will be added to your ego by a straight vertical line, so that this will be a line from your ego (square) to your siblings showing circles and triangles attached to the horizontal line. [2] [5]

All combinations of male (triangle) – (equals sign) – female (circle) will be attached to the horizontal line denoting the children, which will be cousins (co), aunts (au), or uncles going further up the chart. [2] [5]

Your family tree should show all connections and combinations such as divorces (an eguals sign intersected by a slash), or a cohabitation (two wavy lines), and so on. [2] [5]

Once you have drawn all possible family connections, you are done. You could also add a key to your diagram at the bottom of the page showing what the symbols and abbreviations stand for. Notes about information relevant to members of the family can be written at the bottom of the family tree page, or they can be written up on a separate sheet of paper or in a notebook. [2] [5]

If you are doing the assignment for high school or college, you will need to follow the instructions of your teacher or professor. Most likely you would be doing this type of assignment for a college introductory cultural anthropology course. However, some high schools do offer anthropology courses or related courses and might also require a family tree diagram according to anthropological principles.


Drawing up the anthropological family tree diagram is actually easier than doing the historical genealogical chart which in most cases requires proofs, such as birth and death certificates, census bureau information, and marriage and divorce certificates. Names are on the genealogical family tree along with birth dates and death dates and a number to denote the connection. If the family tree goes back really far, the numbers can be quite long and it can become very complicated.

The anthropological family tree can be used to denote illnesses in the family, to show language similarities, to show any social and cultural connections, such as trade between families or clans. Therefore, the anthropological family tree is an easy method to quickly come to a consensus regarding the social structure of a community. [3]





Samples of anthropological family tree diagrams: