Blended families genealogy

Blended families are becoming more the norm these days. Over the holidays I enjoyed a visit with my brother Johnny’s son Keith, his three daughters ages 12, 9 and 3, and his new wife Lindsay, the mother of their 3 year old. Theirs is a blended family. His mother’s husband adopted Keith when he was very young. Keith’s mother gave birth to another son. I had not seen Keith since my brother’s funeral in 2010 and the divorce from his first wife. Now happily remarried, I was re-connecting with Keith’s family. What a sweet Saturday that was! In addition, brother Johnny had a family too— a wife and daughter who recently married and gave birth to a daughter. Oh, how I wish my brother Johnny could have lived to see them. Girls, girls everywhere! I am swimming in nieces! I wondered what would be the best way to add my brother’s line to the family tree.

Many kinship relationships do not fit neatly onto standard pedigree charts. Usually a genealogy family tree includes a chart with neat lines connecting parents to children. But what do you do when you have a family like mine that includes divorce, remarriage, adoptions, foster parents, and extended families?

Some of my relations mirror cultural traditions of our African and Native American tribal ancestors. For more information on traditional African family structure including polygamy, kinship and clans, click here. For information on Native American matrilineal family structures, click here. Studies have already shown that extended, blended families actually offer unique and positive ways for children to be parented and loved. It was evident that Keith has become a devoted family man, public school teacher and musician. I believe this was a result of his own hard work and having been well-raised and supported by a huge clan that included parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and a huge loving extended family. What a blessing!

Standard genealogy pedigree charts impose outdated Euro-centric family frameworks for blended families like mine. There was no place to insert unwed parent’s children and others who are actually part of the ‘family’ but not related by blood. I had never considered children of unwed parents as illegitimate. In fact, the concept of illegitimate children does not exist in many cultures! But that’s a future post.

Maybe one day, someone will re-invent a family tree chart that can include today’s new definition of what it means to be a ‘family.’

In the meantime, click here for a link that can help with blended family genealogy, including a tutorial for adding multiple parents and single parents to your family tree.

Do you have any blended family genealogy challenges or tips?