How to Make a Family Tree in Microsoft Word

By Filonia LeChat

Instead of just telling family members they’re apples that haven’t fallen far from their tree, show them using a Microsoft Word-designed family tree. With Word’s templates and shapes tools, you can “plant” your tree from scratch and don’t have to wait long for it to sprout. Make a record of your family history or plot someone else’s as a unique gift, all by using Word to help your tree take root.

Step 1

Launch Microsoft Word 2013. Open a new blank document and click the “Insert” tab. Click the “SmartArt” button in the Illustrations section of the ribbon.

Step 2

Click the “Hierarchy” link in the left column of SmartArt options. Select one of the Hierarchy diagrams, such as “Organization Chart” or “Half Circle Organization Chart,” which are already set up to look like the branches and leaves of a family tree. Click the “OK” button and Word inserts a small chart with placeholder text boxes and a text-input box onto the Word page.

Step 3

Click in the topmost box or shape on the chart. Type the name of the earliest ancestor who started your family or the one whom you can trace back the furthest. You can either type directly into the box or shape on the tree or into the text input box to the left of the tree. To close the text input box and move it out of the way, click the “X” on the box’s top-right.

Step 4

Click in the next lower box or shape on the chart. Type the next person in the family's lineage from the top of the family tree. You can also add additional text, such as birth and death dates, birth place, and nicknames. Continue to fill the boxes or shapes of the tree.

Step 5

Review the SmartArt Tools tab and ribbon, which you’ll see when the family tree is enabled. If you click off it, you won’t see this ribbon. Click the tree again to see the options. This ribbon is where you customize your tree.

Step 6

Click the “Add Shape” button on the ribbon and choose one of the options, such as “Add Shape Before” or “Add Shape Below.” This is how you customize your tree to fit your actual family, rather than using Word’s default template. You’ll use this function to add additional siblings on a branch, for example, or to denote a married couple on the same branch of the tree. Use the buttons in the Create Graphic section of the ribbon to shuffle the “leaves” of the tree to fit your family.

Step 7

Extend the size of the tree to better fit the Word page by clicking a corner of the shape, holding down the cursor and dragging the shape out toward the edge of the page. As you add boxes to the tree, Word automatically adjusts the tree smaller so it stays within the size you create on the page. Trees with many branches, leaves and levels may have small type.

Step 8

Format the tree’s appearance by clicking the “Change Colors” button on the ribbon or cycling through the SmartArt Styles section of the ribbon.

Step 9

Add images to the family tree, such as photographs or headshots next to each name, by clicking the “Insert” tab, clicking the “Pictures” button, browsing to the photo on your computer, and double-clicking it. Drag the photo next to the family member's name or into the box or shape.

Step 10

Save the file when the family tree is complete by selecting "File" and "Save."

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want a jump-start on making a family tree, type “family tree” into the Search box on the main Word start page. Select one of the two templates -- one is simple and one has a juvenile appearance -- and then add your family's "branches" and "leaves.”
  • It may be helpful to sketch out the tree on paper first, so that you have time to brainstorm all the family members and can cross out, rearrange and add names as you think of them.