Beyond Biology

By Amy G. Partain Premium

We recently received a letter from a family historian who wrote, “My parents are divorced, and both are remarried with children from their first and second marriages. I need ideas for building a family tree page that represents my nontraditional family.” Could this reader be you?

If so, you have plenty of company The US Census Bureau reports that in 1996, 5.2 million children lived with a biological parent and either a stepparent or adoptive parent. Another 4.1 million children lived with a grandparent. A family that isn’t Mom, Dad, 2.5 kids and a dog may not be “traditional,” but it’s no less a family.

It can be difficult to represent stepparents, adoptive parents, half siblings and step siblings on a family tree scrapbook page. How do you indicate complex blended-family relationships — without offending family members by stating the plain truth about sensitive circumstances, such as a divorce?

Brandi Ginn of Lafayette, Colo., is part of a nontraditional family: She was adopted by her stepfather, and makes room for a brother, three half siblings and a stepsister in her family tree. Ginn has developed three family tree pages using different styles, from an “official” genealogical approach to a more lighthearted page. No matter what your family structure looks like, one of these ideas will inspire you.

Group dynamics

Ginn fashioned a booklet of family group sheets bound with yarn, and attached it to her scrapbook page (top). You’ll find forms like these at <>. The first form covers Ginn, her husband and their daughters; the next, Ginn and her birth family; the third, Ginn’s mother, stepfather and their children; and the last, Ginn’s stepfather’s first wife and their daughter.

Supplies: Background paper (KD Kopp Designs) ? Buttons (Making Memories) ? Fibers (On the Surface) ? Alphabet stamps (Hero Arts) ? Heart punch (Emagination Crafts) ? Eyelets (Stamp Studio)

Abundant branches

Many scrapbook companies make family tree background papers. Ginn chose one without preprinted spaces for names and dates so that she could customize it.

To make room for her biological and blended families, Ginn cut a window in the paper, attached “doors” with eyelets and fibers, and layered the paper over an identical sheet. She placed information about her biological family on the doors, and inside them (top left), documented her blended family.

Supplies: Background paper (Deja Views) ? Eyelets (Stamp Studio) ? Fibers (On the Surface)

Not-so-dirty laundry

Embroidery-floss “clotheslines” display a lot of family information in a fun way (below left). The top two lines show information on Ginn’s biological family. The third line lists Ginn, her mother and her-brother, with journaling about the children’s adoption by their stepfather. The bottom line displays Ginn’s new step-grand pa rents and her maternal grandmother’s remarriage. Supplies: Eyelets (Stamp Studio) ? Letter stickers (Making Memories)

Finally, as an alternative to standard genealogy forms, we’ve designed ancestor charts for step families and adoptive families — you’ll find them on the next two pages.

From the May 2004 Preserve Your Family History.