How to Make a Family Tree in Excel

By Kathryn Hatashita-Lee

Insert Excel’s SmartArt graphics to create a hierarchy layout for your family tree. Adapt a time-saving organization chart to display each member’s name and relation to a common ancestor. For example, each row of graphics can represent a different generation on a hanging layout. Options on the SmartArt Tools ribbon enable you to add more shapes to represent additional family members and to style the fonts for readability. Before you start entering the text, take the time to research the details, such as full names, birthdays, marriages and deaths, to help you stay organized and archive the correct data.

Insert the Hierarchy Layout

Step 1

Click the "Insert" tab on the command ribbon and then click "SmartArt" in the Illustrations group to open the Choose A SmartArt Graphic dialog box. Scrolling panes display the type of graphics, such as List, Hierarchy and Pyramid, and a gallery of thumbnails.

Step 2

Select "Hierarchy" in the sidebar to bring up the Hierarchy thumbnails. Examples of layouts include "Organization Chart," "Picture Organization Chart" and "Horizontal Hierarchy." Select a thumbnail to preview a color version and description. For example, click "Picture Organization Chart" and then click "OK" to copy this hanging layout to the worksheet. A faint border includes sizing handles. The SmartArt Tools ribbon will display the Design and Format tabs with styling options.

Step 3

Click the border to change the cursor to an icon with four arrows and then move this chart to the preferred position on the worksheet. Click and drag a sizing handle to change the dimensions and display all the graphic elements.

Adapt the Layout

Step 1

Select a shape to update with the SmartArt tools. For example, to add a shape to represent another family member, select a shape on the worksheet, click the "Design" tab on the SmartArt Tools ribbon and click the "Add Shape" arrow button in the Create Graphic group. Select "Add Shape After" or "Add Shape Before" to insert a duplicate shape on the same row on a hanging layout, for example. Other Add Shape options will insert shapes above or below the selected graphic.

Step 2

Select a shape and then select "Promote," "Demote," "Move Up" or "Move Down" in the Design tab's Create Graphic group to rearrange the shapes on the tree's layout.

Step 3

Click any shape and click the "Design" tab on the SmartArt Tools ribbon. Click the "More" button in the SmartArt Styles group to open the gallery of thumbnails. Point over a thumbnail to preview the effect on your shapes. Examples include "Cartoon," "Polished" and "White Outline." Click the preferred thumbnail to update the chart's style.

Step 4

Enter names and details, such as dates, to build your family tree. Select the text and style the font with the Font group options on the Home tab. For example, select a Theme color sample in the Font Color chart to emphasize one branch of the family.

Step 5

Press "Ctrl-S" to save this workbook.

Tips & Warnings

  • Microsoft provides family tree templates with layouts to copy to a workbook. Click "File" on the ribbon, click "New" and then enter "family tree" in the "Search for online Templates" field. Press "Enter" to bring up the thumbnails. (See links in Resources.) Select a thumbnail to preview and then click "Create" or "Download" to copy to a new workbook. Some templates with horizontal layouts display each generation formatted on one column, and each name on one row.
  • If you’re creating this family tree from scratch, create two worksheets. Compile a reference list of all the names and their relationships on one worksheet and then copy and paste each name in the hierarchy chart on another worksheet.
  • As an alternative to entering text inside the SmartArt graphic, compile the text on a Text Pane. Click the "Design" tab on the SmartArt Tools ribbon and click "Text Pane" in the Create Graphic group to open the side pane. Click the right arrow button between the two panes to close the Text Pane.
  • Information in this article applies to Microsoft Excel 2013, Small Office Premium. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions or products.