Adventures in Genealogy Adventures in Genealogy

Family Tree or Forest?

Or "Rednecks, Extended Family and Granpa's 3rd Wives Kids"

by Uncle Hiram


Last Weekend I was down at the local Dairy Queen munching on a Belt Buster(1) and talking with Elmer Joe Cox about a genealogical conference coming up in the next few weeks down in the Houston area. We were just starting to discuss the very important subject of whether or not a Hot Fudge Sundae without nuts is really a Hot Fudge Sundae (2) when Cousin Tyrel came bustin in the door.(3)

I looked at Elmer and said “You wanted nuts. There is the biggest one I know.”

Tyrel came over and sat down. He turned to Elmer and said “Elmer Joe I got me another big problem with my family tree. No Don’t gripe at me, I done what you said. I started with me, then wrote down my Momma and Daddy. Then their Momma and Daddy and put in all their stuff, and yes I been puttin in the sources. But you see the thang is Granpa Hocutt had 3 wives and I cant figure out what to do about the kids of the third wife. Am I supposed to include them or just ignore them like that waitress over at German John’s does me.”

Elmer frowned and said “Tyrel it all depends on what you are trying to do. If you are just trying to trace your personal family tree then leave them out, but if you are trying to cultivate a family forest then include them.”

Tyrel got that look on his face like he did when he bought that old Volkswagen and couldn’t find the motor. He shook his head and asked “ Family forest I don’t understand. I’m looking up Hocutts, Traywicks, and Moores. I aint got no Forests. I don’t think I’m following you.”

Elmer grinned and said “Tyrel let me explain. If you want to build your personal family tree you start with yourself and work straight back. You end up with an inverted pyramid with yourself at the point.”

Tyrel frowned “An EndVertable Pie-A-Mid. Whats that.”

Elmer laughed “No, an Inverted pyramid. Just think of it as an upside down triangle. Each level is larger than the one below it. You Understand?”

Tyrel smiled “Yea I understand that, my wife Betty Jean played a triangle in the school band.”

Elmer said “I should have known. Ok, now if you are building a family forest you include all brothers and sisters of your ancestors and all their kids and grandkids. You end up with something that resembles a Pine forest with lots of peaks. Each peak would be the oldest ancestor of each line. All of their descendants would flow down eventually connecting with your main line.”

Tyrel said “I understand I think. So if I wanted to build a database with all of my cousins in it I would use this family forest method. Hey thanks Elmer, my burgers are done. I had better head for the house.”

We come to the end of another Adventure in Genealogy with (Hopefully) a better understanding of family tree’s and family forests.

- Adios and Keep Smiling!

Return to the Adventures in Genealogy home page.

1) Belt Buster – a 1/3 Pound hamburger served with mustard and all the fixins.
2) Hot Fudge Sundae – You gotta have the nuts.
3) Tyrel did pay to replace the busted door even though he tried to explain it was only a figure of speech.

About the Author
"I am not rich or famous so I don't have a pre-prepared Bio written by some high paid ghost rider. So I will just give Yall the relevant facts."

- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)

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