A family tree is supposed to be a simple way to illustrate one’s lineage. There are various forms employed, some starting with an individual and working backwards in time, others which begin somewhere in the past, with a couple, and work forward to show their descendants.
Once upon a time constructing such charts was a straight forward process but that is no longer true, at least from my point of view. I started to build a chart beginning with my paternal grandparents, only one generation removed, and found that once I passed my parents’ position things got complicated in a big hurry.
So many people have come and gone through marriage, divorce (annulment), remarriage and death that I don’t know how to list them.
For instance, does a niece’s ex rate a slot of his own and if so, what of her current or subsequent husbands.
If someone’s ex is not to be listed then what of the children produced during the marriage? To whom would their lines of parentage extend?
And on that subject, what about children brought into the relationship from a new spouse’s earlier marriages? Are they afforded a slot on the family tree or simply ignored?
Then there are children resulting from long term relationships in which the parties adamantly cling to their “single” status, are they given special treatment?
I’m reminded of the old Saturday Night Live skit in which Chevy Chase is “new dad”, sent out by an insurance company that replaces absent fathers. In the closing scene he takes a close up photo of his own face and pastes it over old dad’s face in the family wedding picture. Funny then but close to being fact now.
Full disclosure, I have had three marriages with progeny and am not pointing a finger at anyone in particular, just curious as to how to handle listing the various relationships. I suppose a simple answer would be to complete multiple charts and use whichever one feels right at the moment.
Or, since the positions to be filled remain fairly constant, perhaps it would be best to construct the chart in pencil, erase and then replace as the lead characters enter and exit the family stage. What say you?
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