Every family has a story, and it is the goal of every genealogist to create an accurate depiction of that story. A genogram poster can be an excellent way to illustrate this for others in your family who don’t know their history or understand what goes into making one.
Whether you’re creating a genogram for your therapy sessions or family history, there are certain things you’ll want to keep in mind. We’ve provided practical tips to help ensure your genogram is as accurate and helpful as possible. So, let’s jump right in. Shall we?
First Things First, Determine Your Reason for Designing the Genogram
The type of genogram you design will be dependent on your reason for creating it. For example, if you’re planning to use the genogram in therapy with a client, you’ll need to ensure plenty of information and detail are provided. However, if the genogram is simply going to explain genealogy within your family tree, less information may suffice.
Research Family History
It’s crucial to gather as much information as possible before beginning to design your genogram. Speaking with family members who are still living is a good start, but you may also need to consult documents such as birth certificates and death records.
Start Designing Your Genogram
Once you have all the information you need, you can begin designing your genogram. You may want to start with a blank poster and add the information as you go along or work from an existing template that provides pre-made shapes for each family member. Follow the steps below to create an incredible genome:
Create Key Symbols for Each Family Member
When putting together each individual’s section on the poster, it can be helpful to have certain symbols represent certain family members. For example, you could use an “X” to symbolize someone deceased or a dot in the middle of an empty circle for someone whose whereabouts are unknown.
However, it’s best to stick to standard genome symbols because these are the same symbols that most professionals use. Besides, most people are familiar with these simple symbols, which will make it easier for everyone to understand the poster. For each family member, you’ll want to include the following:
- A square for males
- A circle for females
- A single horizontal line to indicate marriage
- Two slanted lines to show divorce
- A diamond symbol for pets
Organize the Genogram Based on Family Interactions
Once you have selected all the symbols you need, it’s time to start organizing the genogram. Genograms typically group family members by generation and then display their relationships with other people clockwise, starting from 12 o’clock and moving counter-clockwise around the circle. Typically, you should begin with the oldest family member (generation) and work your way down.
You should also have symbols for interactions such as conflicts, marriage, and estrangement to show how family members interact with each other. Try to place symbols for interactions in the order they happen, starting from 12 o’clock and moving counter-clockwise around the circle.
Mark Significant Dates on Your Genogram Poster
You must add dates of significant events onto your genogram poster whenever possible because it can be challenging to make sense of the information without them.
The most important events to record on your genogram poster are:
- Birth and death
- Relationships (marriage or cohabitation)
- Legal actions such as arrests or prison sentences, social service interventions like child protective services involvement, and significant moves (relocations) that lead to changes in family structure.
Sources: WikiHow and Oliveme Counseling
How Can I Create a Genogram Online for Free?
You have probably noticed that there are tons of results if you search online for a free genogram maker. However, most of these websites require your credit information to create the map, and some even charge a monthly fee.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to create a genogram online for free. For starters, you can use Canva. The platform offers both free and paid templates that you can use to create a genogram poster.
Can you make a genogram on Google Docs? Yes. While the platform doesn’t offer templates, it has numerous features that are perfect for genogram making. Plus, since it’s a Google product, you can sign in to your account and access this tool from anywhere on any device.
If you’re looking to make professional designs without any hassle. Edrawmax is an excellent platform for this. The site offers a free trial that gives you access to over 100 professional genogram templates. You can either download them or use Edrawmax to make your own designs.
If you are ready to step up your game and take your poster design to the next level, you will want to read this article, Top 5 Software Programs For Making Movie Posters. The article is geared toward movie posters, but the principles remain the same.
Tips to Make Your Genogram Stand Out
Whether you’re making your genogram from scratch or using a template, you’ll want to make sure it looks as professional and attractive as possible. If you want your genogram to look amazing:
Use Graph Style
A graph style is perfect for genograms because of its simplicity. It can show relationships between people without getting too complicated about the layout or colors used.
Ensure the Patterns are Clear
The goal of every genogram poster is to show relationships between people, so make sure the patterns you choose can be easily seen.
Use a Consistent Scale
When there are many names in your genogram, it’s easy for some to get lost or more challenging to see when they’re smaller. Make them easier by using one scale throughout the entire chart.
Limit Use of Color
You may be tempted to use color for each person or family. However, this can make the genogram very busy and challenging to read. A good rule of thumb is one primary color per generation in your genealogy tree poster.
Consider Using Labels
If you have many names on your chart, consider labeling instead of writing them directly on the lines. This will make your genogram more readable and quick to understand.
There you have it; a quick rundown of how to make a genogram poster that looks amazing! Remember, these genealogical family trees are meant to aid and not the be-all and end-all. Therefore, include only the vital information and the most significant, relevant events.
If you are interested in learning more about poster design, you can check out the free YouTube channel Postergrind where you will find plenty of helpful design tutorials. Also, we are currently creating an online class, but it is still in production. We suggest signing up for our newsletter as subscribers will be the first to be notified.