Alternative family tree ideas

Alternative Family Tree Ideas
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Family trees can be a wonderful way to show affection and pride towards the members of your family. Big or small, store-bought or hand-made, family trees come in many shapes and sizes. If you’re the artistic type, you’re only limited by your imagination! 

Whether you decide to go all out and handcraft an elaborate family tree or keep things minimalistic with a small photo collage, building a family tree with your family members can be a great way to spend some quality time together this holiday season. Moreover, once you’re done, you also have an amazing piece of art to flaunt whenever someone visits, so what’s not to like? It’s a win-win situation. 

Never built a family tree before and wondering where to start? Have a look through our guides on the best family tree makers and the best genealogy sites. These tools can help you map your heritage and get a good idea of how bog-standard family trees usually look.

Once you've got a firm grasp on this, you may want to put your own spin on the idea of a family tree — which is where these alternative ideas can come in handy. 

Create your own photobook

Artifact Uprising

(Image credit: Artifact Uprising)

One of the easiest and most efficient ways to build a family tree is to use a photobook. With hundreds of free tools and paid photobook services available, building a family tree this way is fairly convenient and even the youngest members of the family can do it. 

Not sure where to get started? Check out our guide to the best photo books, which we've tried and tested. You'll be able to pick your own layout, add captions and choose your paper finish and book cover too. At the end of the process, you'll have a lovely memento that you can pass on to future generations, so they'll always be able to trace their lineage. 

Draw on a chalkboard 

Family drawn in chalk

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want something that's both cheaper and more versatile than a photobook family tree, we recommend trying a chalkboard. Here you can hand-draw beautiful images, doodles or just write out the names of your family members in various patterns. You could create a circle (more on that below), a hierarchy-style triangle, or just write the names one after the other with some cute illustrations thrown in for style. 

Again, if you’re the creative type, your imagination is the ceiling. And if you're tired of looking at one particular drawing, you can erase it all and start again (or just use it to make your grocery list.) It's a simple way to show your kids how they're related to various family members. 

Alternative Family Tree Ideas: Image shows web of polaroids attached with pushpins

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is an easy one to do if you have some corkboard lying around and you want to make a simple, compact tree that shows your immediate family. Simply snap a few pics of your loved ones — or print out some old photos that you already have — then pin them to the board.

A nice option that looks good on display, we like it as you can switch in new photos as family members grow up — or as your family expands!

Get out your needle and thread

Embroidered heart

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Embroidery has been gaining steam as a meditative tool in recent years. So why not build a family tree using needle and thread? You can reap all the soothing benefits of the activity while spending quality time with your loved ones. Simply embroider the names of your family members together or even illustrate their faces, depending on your skill level. 

Build a solar system

Kid and grandparent creating 3D model of solar system

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Always fantasized about space? Have a kid at home who loves talking about the planets and the stars? Then go for a planet-themed family tree. You could arrange your family photos like planets in the solar system, starting with the oldest member in the family as the sun and adding the children and grandchildren as surrounding planets and moons. You could even add distant relatives as stars. 

If you want to get a little more creative and add a touch of astronomy, you could add family members to specific planets depending on their characteristics, zodiac, or other defining elements. And if you're feeling adventurous, you could even make a 3D model yourself...

Try a circular tree

Family Search Circular Tree

(Image credit: Family Search)

We're used to seeing family trees splayed out in a web-like arrangement, but that's not the only option. Plenty of sites like Family Search give you colorful, alternative models that let you display your genealogy in a circular shape, as shown above. Some people find these easier to comprehend, visually. You could start with a single family member in the middle and place their descendants in the outer circles. 

You don't have to stick with this rigid formula, though. You could also do something like arrange your family photos around a central image or word, that represents something important to you. Play with the pattern, see where it goes. 

Sakshi Udavant is a freelance writer and journalist, who covers everything from wellness to the latest tech trends. She regularly writes comparison articles and features for Top Ten Reviews, helping readers pick between competitor brands.