Family relationships can be quite complex and challenging to understand — even at the best of times! Luckily, by using a type of diagram called genograms, anyone can map out these familial ties and get a sense of all kinds of dynamics and patterns at play.
Not a diagramming expert? No problem. It’s easy to do when you have genogram templates to act as your starting point.
In this article, I’ll discuss the benefits of genograms, share some example genogram templates that you can explore and show you how to visualize family information with ease.
Click to jump ahead:
- What is a genogram?
- What is the history of genograms?
- Genogram examples and tips for easy reference
- Purpose and benefits of using a genogram
- Genogram templates for easy family diagramming
- How to make a genogram with Venngage’s free Genogram Maker
- Genograms FAQ
What is a genogram?
A genogram is a visual representation of a family tree that goes beyond the traditional approach. In other words, they’re not the same type of diagram my uncle loves to show off at every family reunion…
Instead, these graphics provide more context by visualizing important information about family relationships, medical histories, psychological factors and other significant life events — depending on their scope and purpose.
But how do they do this?
Well, genograms use simple symbols to illustrate these details, which is why they’re incredibly powerful analysis and decision-making tools.
These pictorial displays are crucial when it comes to understanding family dynamics and patterns of behavior that may be passed down from generation to generation.
What is the history of genograms?
The concept of the genogram was first introduced by Dr. Murray Bowen in the 1970s. Dr. Bowen used this diagramming technique to map out family relationships and understand the impact of family history on individual behavior.
Then, in 1985, Randy Gerson and Monica McGoldrick further popularized it in clinical settings through their publication, Genograms: Assessment and Intervention.
Since, genograms have been used in a variety of fields, including psychology, sociology, medicine, anthropology, education, family therapy and more.
Nowadays, many family businesses use genograms to assist with decision-making processes as well.
Purpose and benefits of using a genogram
There are endless benefits that come with mapping out family trees and adding contextual information to the different relationships within.
Here are just a few reasons why genograms can be beneficial for use in business or medical contexts:
- Genograms allow you to understand the relationship and roles each family member plays.
- Genograms help you see patterns of behavior within family members, as well as their emotional, physical and psychological characteristics
- Genograms allow you to understand family histories and their impact on business or future generations’ health
- Genograms help solve conflicts and power struggles
- Genograms assist you with making informed decisions about the future; in this way they act like decision tree diagrams and can help with hiring, communication strategies and even succession planning.
In sum, genograms help you understand yourself, your family and your environment on a much deeper level. And using Venngage’s genogram templates, creating a personalized genogram from scratch becomes so much easier to do.
Related: 15+ Decision Tree Infographics to Visualize Problems and Make Better Decisions
Genogram examples and tips for easy reference
There are many different ways you can go about making a genogram. If this is your first time creating one and you’re looking for inspiration, I’ve rounded up some genogram examples below to help.
You’ll also find tips to help you create all kinds of genograms — from traditional family trees to more complex forms.
Starting a genogram
When creating your own genogram, start first with the most immediate family members known, and branch out from there.
The above genogram template is an example of a basic genogram for a family business. Rest assured, you can 100% modify its contents to further map out connections in the family.
Genograms can also show the family lineage going back several generations. Since succession planning is a critical part of any family business, these diagrams may play an important role in this process.
(Speaking of Succession… any fans here? You just know the Roy children would be using genograms for leverage).
Adding significant details
If you want to get more specific with the details you include in your genogram, you can use the template above (no, not the meme — the family tree, silly!) to add in more facts. This could include the date of birth, marriage and death (if applicable) for each family member.
You might also consider including other significant life events, such as divorces, adoptions or separations in your genograms. Different colors or genogram symbols may be used to illustrate these situations instead of putting them in text form.
A key can be included to help interpret the diagram, just like in this next example.
Feel free to add further complexity to your family genogram by exploring the medical history of your family members, or any other psychosocial information that applies. This is especially helpful in settings where health concerns could have an impact.
As I’ve shown, genograms can be used to track mental and physical health disorders, addictions, chronic illnesses, specific traumas and more.
The above example shows how squares and circles differentiate between males and females in this genogram, while different colors indicate specific medical conditions.
Other uses for genograms
Genograms are not only for relationships or hereditary patterns. They can also be used to see the career direction of each family member and how power is distributed within the family system.
Here’s a sample genogram that maps out the educational and professional achievements of various family members. By studying this chart, family members can get a better understanding of different career paths that may be an option for them in the future.
Remember: you can always get creative with your genograms and add your own personal touch. (Especially if you use Venngage, since you can customize every visual element on the page!). The important thing is that you find a way to map out the information that’s most relevant and useful to you and your family.
Related: 10+ Genogram Examples (and How to Create Them)
Genogram templates for easy family diagramming
Ready to see some fabulous genogram templates you can edit in seconds? Look no further than this roundup of Smart templates below.
First, I’ll direct your eyes back to the free genogram template above, appearing in the “Starting a genogram” section. That one would be particularly well-suited to a genogram mapping family medical histories, as it traces the lineage of earlier ancestors towards core members of a group.
Like the previous example, this three-generation genogram template is a Smart diagram. In other words, this chart makes it easy to speed up the design process and reflect the information you’d like to display in a clean, organized manner. (I love it when the hard work’s done for me, don’t you?)
Plus, there’s a key already included. All you need to do is customize what the symbols mean — or mix things up and add your own — to create a comprehensive family chart.
Just so you know, most genograms showcase at least three generations of family members. But you don’t have to stop there.
This genogram template contains six generations to start. It’s also Smart, so it’s a breeze to add, modify or delete sections of the chart as needed.
I particularly like how it uses different colors to group familial relations between individuals. Not only is this easy on the eyes, but it also invokes the design principle of contrast to aid with the relay and comprehension of visual information.
Want something a lil more low key? Check out the option below.
This Smart, free genogram template keeps things basic yet personalized by using a dark palette and providing room for a photo of each individual. Upload your own pics into Venngage’s editor to replace the faces in seconds.
Here’s one last genogram template that may appeal.
The serif font adds a romantic touch to this diagram.
If that’s not exactly your thing, no problem. You can easily swap out the font for one that’s more your style in a click.
How to make a genogram with Venngage’s free Genogram Maker
Now that you’ve seen some examples of what a genogram can look like, you may be wondering how you can go about creating your own.
No fear. It’s easy to use Venngage’s intuitive Genogram Maker and professionally-designed tree diagram templates to map out a professional family tree. Not only can you completely customize every visual element you see on the page, but you’ll also get access to thousands of royalty-free stock images and tons of other data visualization tools to boot.
Here are five quick and easy steps to design your very own genogram:
Step 1: Create or login into your account
If you don’t have a Venngage account, no fear. Just sign up for free to get started!
Step 2: Go to Templates > Diagrams > Tree Diagrams
Once you’ve gone through a quick onboarding process, you should arrive at the templates page. On the left-hand menu, select Diagrams and then Tree Diagrams. Then, scroll through the different genogram templates and select the one that you like.
Note that all of our genogram diagrams are Smart — meaning it’s a breeze to add or delete sections by replicating existing content.
Step 3: Choose your preferred diagram template
Once you’ve found a genogram template that you like, click on it and you will be directed to the editor.
Step 4: Customize your genogram template
Now you’re ready to start personalizing! Click on each element in the genogram template to modify it to match your needs. You can also add/delete other sections and elements quickly and easily.
Smart diagramming makes it easy to replicate and connect sections, which is crucial for creating an effective genogram:
Feel free to add photos and text and change the colors, backgrounds and font styles as you wish. Here, you can see I’ve placed icons around the title as well.
(Disclaimer: this family chart is not based in reality. Do me a solid and ignore the problematic nature of this example connection…)
Believe me when I tell you, your creative options are endless!
Step 5: Save or download your genogram
When you’re finished, you can share or embed your design for free, or upgrade to a paid plan to download your genogram as a PNG, PNG HD, JPG or PDF file.
Paid plans give you access to other fabulous premium features, such as automated branding with Venngage’s My Brand Kit, and real-time Team Collaboration. (The latter is particularly useful for creating as comprehensive a chart as possible!)
How are genograms used in social work?
Genograms, or ecomaps, are often used by family therapists to help explain family dynamics, psychological factors, as well as relationship patterns of an individual. A social worker may use a genogram for a child, teenager, or family to gather information, understand their environment and develop a plan that would best support the individual or family.
Genograms are also used to understand the distribution of resources and services in a community, as well as to identify areas in need. Genograms may be helpful for locating hard-to-reach populations and planning interventions.
How do you make a genogram online?
You can make a genogram online by using Venngage’s Genogram Maker. This tool makes it easy to create genograms by offering a wide variety of Smart templates that you can customize to match your needs in seconds. All you need to do is sign up for a free account to get started.
Can you make a genogram in Word?
Yes, you can make a genogram on Microsoft Word by using their SmartArt graphics, or building your own genogram using the basic shapes and symbols available on the platform. Do keep in mind that creating a genogram on Word is far less convenient than using a free tool like Venngage’s Genogram Maker and professionally-designed Smart templates. Rather than spend extra time designing the chart itself, you can worry about what really matters — understanding the relationships and patterns within.
Diagram family relationships effectively with genograms
Genograms give you a bird’s eye view of a family’s history, and with that knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to make smart decisions that take the whole picture into account.
And while creating genograms is a process that can take time, with the right tools like Venngage’s Genogram Maker, it’ll end up being easy…and, dare I say, fun! So what are you waiting for? Start mapping out your family trees today.