Symbols used in the Anthropological Kinship Chart

Anthropological kinship or genealogy charts are similar to the genealogy charts done by genealogists but they are mapped out using symbols rather than names. However names can be included in an anthropological kinship chart depending on the work being done by the anthropologist.

Cultural anthropologists develop anthropological kinship or genealogy charts to show the social relationship between families, clans, and other familial relationships; and their social, linguistic, or religious cultures; and to discover the social structure of a community. [1]

Anthropological kinship charts are also used in the medical profession, by medical doctors, scientists, and medical anthropologists to show how diseases may be inherited from one generation to the next in order to better diagnose and keep track of illnesses within families or to investigate and study past familial medical relationships. [4]

The symbols and connections [7] [8]

The anthropological kinship chart will start with the ego or the person for whom the chart is being developed; and to show the connections between family members. [5]

If you are doing a kinship chart for yourself, you would designate yourself as the ego. The ego would be shown on the chart as a symbol for ego. The ego could be male, female, or unknown.  The symbol for the female person is a circle. The symbol for the male person is a triangle. The person of unknown sex is a square. Therefore if you are male your ego symbol would be a triangle. If you are female your ego symbol would be a circle. Often the ego is simply displayed as a square.

Once you have designated the ego, you will then show the ego’s parents, which would be a male with the symbol of a triangle connected to the female whose symbol is a circle. The male and female are connected with an equals symbol. The equals symbol indicates a marriage. The equals sign intersected by a diagonal line shows a divorce.

There are two types of straight lines used in the kinship chart, which are a straight vertical line indicating descent from parents or married people to their children and a straight horizontal line connecting all the siblings or brothers and sisters. The brothers and sisters if married will be connected as the parents with the equals symbol or with the slashed equals symbol in the case of divorce.

The entire anthropological kinship chart can show uncles, aunts, grandparents and great grandparents and as many relatives as the anthropologist can locate according to research.

If you are doing the kinship chart for yourself and your family you will usually have to contact older relatives to find out information about your family.

Usually names are not put on the anthropological kinship chart, but they can be listed on a separate sheet or at the bottom of the chart or on the chart itself. If you are doing a kinship chart for yourself for a class in high school or college it is a good idea to keep all family background information you have discovered in the process of doing the chart. At some point later in life, you may want to do a historical genealogy chart of your family; and names and background information are important for this type of genealogy chart. Also, dates and locations are important.

Abbreviations are used on the kinship chart also: fa for father, mo for mother, da for daughter, and z or si for sister, co for cousin, and br for brother. You may also make up your own abbreviations. You may also make up other symbols for unusual circumstances.

You can also include a key to your symbols and abbreviations at the bottom of the page. Also there could be notes to go with your connections and symbols.

The chart in symbols

So to begin making your chart using symbols you will need a large piece of paper like a page from a large drawing pad or a large piece of paper that you can have cut off a roll from an art or craft supply store or other store that has this type of paper.

Then begin with your symbol for ego and continue with symbols for parents, siblings, marriages and divorces, and also cohabitation relationships that use two wavy lines as the symbol.

Your whole anthropological chart will consist of a large page of circles, triangles, the equals sign, and the vertical and horizontal lines connecting the relationships.

Depending on the anthropologist, symbols can vary; and new symbols can be formed. Non-western kinship charts often use different symbols but the structure of a kinship chart is basically the same through all cultures. [2] [3] [4]
So the scientific anthropological kinship chart will consist of a paper with a collection of symbols connected to each other through marriage, divorce, multiple divorces, and multiple marriages; Children will also be recorded using the symbols.


There is a difference between the anthropological kinship chart and the genealogy chart done by genealogists. The anthropological chart uses symbols to refer to relationships whereas the genealogist’s chart would make connections using full names and dates of birth and death.

Although names may not be included on the anthropological kinship chart, it is a good idea to record them and any relevant information about families when doing a chart for yourself. This information may be useful later in life for doing a family background genealogical chart or writing a memoir.





Examples of college assignments for using symbols in the kinship chart:



Examples of anthropological kinship charts and their symbols: