For over 35 years now, I have been asked to take on Family Tree projects. After creating a number of them, I’ve designed a workshop, teaching calligraphers and artists how to lay them out in a multitude of ways. A few of them will be shared below. Probably the two favorites have been the Berghel Family Tree, which was about 3’x5′ or so and shaped like a tree. It included birth death and marriage dates. A couple on the trunk of the tree has ancestors in the roots and descendants in the branches. I sure wish that I had a better picture of this. I’ve learned since, that on large pieces, I should take it to a photographer who can capture the fine detail.
A second favorite layout has been the circular Twinrocker paper with feather deckle for smaller families, again, tree shaped. If you look closely, the image below has Laotian names over on the left side of the tree. My client kindly sent me the names in the Laotian alphabet, which helped tremendously.
The family below had a favorite tree in their yard and had me paint two-tone oak leaves with gold centers. Lots of detail! Note the float mounted handmade paper. You can frame in a circle or square and then put a handsome frame on it.
Nevertheless, what I call ‘straight line’ charts are still popular and those who choose them, often like to put crest or coat of arms in the layout to fill an empty space in the chart.
Besides trees and line, you can create the family tree in fan shape, circle, wreath (names on leaves), you can put or use a transfer technique to place photos, or you can create little illustrations of homesteads or family hobbies or businesses, etc.
It has been a privilege and an intrigue to create family tree books or albums. The chart folds into a front pocket in a leather book, then each new family has a heading in the book and articles, birth/death documents and other inspiring pieces of information are included. This layout can really bring the family to life, making it much more personal. The book below was hand bound in green leather by Gabrielle Fox who also made a clamshell box with special end papers.
When starting a family tree the most important thing that I ask clients to organize for me are the family names. Make sure that they are clearly typed out in their generations.
By organizing this for the calligrapher, the client themself a lot of money and prevents errors.
Family Tree’s are extremely time consuming. Mainly because as you pencil in names, there is often the need to shift names this way and that, if your original placements prove to be off a little. That being said, if you’re creating a straight-line chart, a calligrapher should start to layout the longest generation of names. Why? Because once you fit that generation across the page, you know how wide a space should be allowed for each name in the longest line of names, you will know how much space to leave for the names in other generations. This way, you give the names and page consistency.
As you consider designing your family tree, you can add other elements. One client had me put every name in a little red box and each generation had a different decorative gold gilding around each box. Another client featured the old photos of the couples in the family on the tree. Yet another tree was for an organization…it showed how the organization grew and what new organizations grew out of it. The options are countless! I’m sure that you have plenty of great ideas of your own.
(Since I created the above family tree on calfskin, I’ve learned a new method for securing the skin. It keeps it taught while still allowing it to move).
If you’re reading this and considering having your own family tree completed, mine begin around $500 and have run up to $3,000. Some could go higher. Year 2017. I often need about a month or so to complete the tree. Pricing depends on the number of names, what dates are included, layout, illustrations, tree leaves, etc.
I’m happy to speak with you on the phone if you would like to explore family tree options further!