Family Tree Terms & Meanings
Family Trees are schematic diagrams representing lineage. While they help to illustrate your genealogy, they are not complete. Much as an electrical diagram illustrates a machine, it does not describe the machine. Programs such as Ancestry create a by-product of a family tree while helping you identify and build your family data, including photographs, records, and other documents. This is your genealogy.
People can see and understand a family tree diagram. It has become the manner in which we show our blood and marriage relationships and we can see where we fit. Some of the terms used in genealogy are helpful to understand those relationships, so a glossary is helpful.
term – definition
affinal – kinship term meaning by marriage. On any family tree, an affinal relationship is signified by the term in-law.
ancestor – a person from whom one is descended; forebear; progenitor, forebear, forefather, progenitor.
ancestry – family or ancestral descent; lineage.
ascendant – an ancestor; forebear.
ascendant family tree – the pedigree family tree is sometimes called a direct lineage or ascendant family tree. The pedigree family tree begins with you (or a parent, or grandparent) and then follows a single bloodline or family name back through the generations as far back as you can go.
branch – the outward division or multiplication of paths (child or children) originating at a source – that source being parents.
circle (of time) – a shape consisting of all points in a plane that are a given distance from a given point, in our case it is circles of time in decades outwardly radiating from great grandparents.
confluence (of current time) – occurs where two flowing times join together to form a single channel – in our case it is time flowing from the beginning of two separate generations (your grandparents). Using maternal and paternal trees, each radiating time, they intersect at common decades or the “confluence of current time” (when you were born) (c) copyright.
consanguine – having the same ancestry or descent; related by blood. It is the property of being from the same kinship as another person. In that aspect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person.
consanguinitas – related by blood
cousin – a descendant of your aunt or uncle. Your relationship may be first cousins (you share the same grand parent), second cousins (you share the same great grandparent), and so on.
descendant – heir, offspring, scion, child, children, kin, progeny. It is a person that is descended from a specific ancestor; an offspring.
dna – deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material which is present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.
family – a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not, a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for, the children of one person or one couple collectively, or any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
family tree = genealogical tree, which is a genealogical chart showing the ancestry, descent, and relationship of all members of a family or other genealogical group, a diagram showing the relationships between people in several generations of a family. A family tree, put simply, is a record of a family’s lineage. On the surface, family trees are interesting bits of recorded history that help us know where we came from and possibly give some clues as to where we might be headed. Family trees can take on more importance as things change. The more detailed family trees used in medicine and social work are known as genograms.
family tree diagram – A family tree is an illustrative outline representing the family relationships. It is also called pedigree chart as it is in chart format.
family tree symbol – the tree of life also symbolizes family through its intricate network of branches, showing us the continuity through all generations. We are connected through ever-expanding branches to our parents and grandparents and to our children and our children’s children.
filial – relating to
GEDCOM – a plain text file containing genealogical information about individuals, and meta data linking these records together. Most genealogy software supports importing from and exporting to GEDCOM format. It is an acronym for Genealogy Data Communications.
genealogy – a record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person, family, group, etc., the study of family ancestries and histories, the descent from an original form or progenitor; lineage; ancestry.
genogram – a graphic representation of the personalities and interplay of generations within a family, used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior; a psychological family tree.
generation – a single step in natural descent, as of human beings.
genetrix / genitor – a mother / a father, especially biological
heredity – the transmission of genetic characters from parents to offspring.
kin – a person’s relatives collectively, kinfolk, family relationship or kinship.
lineage – the line of descendants of a particular ancestor; family.
living family tree – a descendant family tree including living relatives (should not be published online but for personal / family use.
once removed – separated by a generation. Example: your uncles children and you are first cousins but your children are “once removed” first cousins to your uncles children.
per stirpes – literally “by branch” or through children; an estate where a father/mother bequeaths only to his/her children and not his/her spouse.
parallel cousins – a children of two brothers or two sisters, contrasted with “cross cousins” who are children of a brother and sister.
pedigree – an ancestral line; line of descent; lineage; ancestry, a genealogical table, chart, list, or record, derivation, origin, or history.
probate – the process or status of an estate outside of a will.
progenitor – founder of a family line
progeniture – a direct ancestor such as father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle or aunt.
progeny – uncountable offspring.
relative – aunt, cousin, father, folk, mother, niece, sibling, uncle, brother, sister, parents, grandparents, nephew, a person who is connected with another or others by blood or marriage.
sibling – a brother or sister who share the same parents.
step – mother, sister, father, brother – a secondary relationship from another marriage by spouses of the original marriage.
surname – a family name, typically last name. Some cultures keep the surname of their mother as well as their father.