Over the summer I attended my very first genealogy institute. I took the German Genealogy Research course presented by John Humphrey at GRIP in Pittsburgh. I learned more than I ever imagined about researching my German ancestors.
During class I was asked a couple of seemingly easy questions: who were your immigrant ancestors? How “German” are you? I have to confess, Monday night I went back to my room, and determined the answers. I am less than 25% German, my husband is closer to 50%. Not the answers I was expecting. After all, I was taking a German research course, well, because my husband and I are mostly German. Right?
I returned home determined to get a better picture of my family. As I’m sure you know, this is not the easiest of endeavors. I tried paper and pencil, computer charting tools, and priced custom genealogy charts. My criteria for my chart and each ancestor:
- Vital statistics
- Military service
- Country of origin
- Space for a picture
- Print for a reasonable price
I have been asking questions of aunts and uncles, as well as raiding their photo collections for years. If I’m going to print a chart it needs to be something attractive that I can share with those poor people who have tolerated my endless stream of questions.
After discarding several possibilities, a friend and I arrived at a viable solution: Microsoft Visio.
To begin, I created a “standard” block for males and females, with space for vital statistics and a picture. Each chart is 32×48, oriented vertically (my friend prefers horizontal), and when printed, is a standard size of 16×24. From my male/female blocks I created a template with 8 generations, and started typing away.
A side benefit to creating my family tree in Visio, was it provided an opportunity to identify gaps and a few inconsistencies in my family tree. There are two keys on each chart:
- A key to the flags which identify immigration country and military service
- A key to the abbreviations used throughout the chart
Now for the good part, the printing and costs. Most print shops prefer a PDF file (Save as PDF in Visio). I printed my chart at Staples, on glossy photo paper, for about $22.50 including state tax. Many print shops also have a heavier bond paper (stationary weight) which can be used to print a “working” chart which you can write on.
If you would like a copy of my template tree, email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a version. I am happy to share. Now if I could find a way to automate the creation of the diagram ..