Customising your family tree can help your research planning and improve the way that you communicate the results of your research.
There are many ways to customise your tree, but this post uses Legacy family tree software and Ancestry trees to demonstrate the main techniques.
Set your direct line
While it is important to research beyond your direct line, it is also useful if you can instantly tell which people in your family tree are on your direct line. This makes it easier to navigate up and down your line, and focus your research when necessary.
In Legacy, you can mark the entire direct line in one step by selecting the starting individual (usually yourself) and then choosing ‘Set Direct Line’ from the Tools tab. Legacy marks the names of people in your direct line in bold typeface.
In an Ancestry tree you have to mark each individual manually, by adding a ‘tree tag’. The direct line tag is called ‘Direct Ancestor’ and it is under the group called ‘Relationship tags’.
How are they related to you?
Knowing how someone is related to you is another useful bit of information as you work on your tree.
Ancestry adds that information automatically to individuals as you add them. With Legacy, you have to switch it on by choosing ‘Set Relationships’ from the Tools tab.
Divide them into your grandparent lines
Dividing your family members into groups based on your four grandparents is a great organisational tool. It helps with navigation, research planning, filing and sharing information with others.
Legacy uses the four-colour scheme and it can be applied by choosing ‘Set Ancestor Colours’ from the Tools tab. This adds a small block of colour on the individual’s screen and colour codes the box for each person in the pedigree chart. The colours can also be applied to printed family tree charts such as the one below.
Ancestry does not have a specific system to group your family by grandparent. However, you could create four custom Tree Tags for this purpose.
Identify research groups
You may find it useful to create customised groups of your family members for research purposes, based on common characteristics or common research questions. For example:
- everyone who migrated to Australia
- people born in Ireland
- parents not yet identified.
Legacy has both two systems of tagging custom groups. The tag system uses the numbers 1-9 which appear at the top of the individual’s screen. The hashtag system allows a seemingly limitless list of tags.
Ancestry has ‘MyTreeTags’ under the categories of DNA, life experience, relationship and research status, and you can also create custom tags. The tags appear below the person’s name on their screen.
Both Legacy and Ancestry allow you to search your family tree for everyone containing a particular tag and create a list. Legacy also allows you to print the list in PDF format or a CSV file. The latter is great for research planning, as the file can be opened and modified in Excel.
Note the status of research
Noting the status of research on individuals may help make your research more manageable and help you focus on those individuals who need to be prioritised to progress your research.
Ancestry tree tags have the following pre-set tags: actively researching, brick wall, complete, hypothesis, unverified, verified.
Legacy does not have a specific system to note the status of research, but you could use the tags or the To Do List for this purpose.
Even if you do not want to use most of these tags, the unverified tag could be extremely useful because it draws attention to the inconclusive nature of the information which affects the accuracy of your family tree.
Record DNA conclusions
I have written before about methods for recording DNA conclusions, so I won’t repeat that here other than to emphasise that it is important to establish a system for doing so and both Legacy and Ancestry have tools to assist this process.