Hot Chocolate & Genealogy
Hot Chocolate & Genealogy

Beyond Cinderella: Integrating Stepfamily, step by step

We all learn of stepfamilies from a very early age, whether we are part of these blended families or not. Fairytales introduced us to the concept of these people but they created them in a negative context. Would Hansel and Gretl's biological mother send them into the woods with only a piece of bread in hopes of losing them? Writers of the Shakespeare era said no, and so they created 'step'-mothers.

When we record our family history more than 50% of North Americans will ponder what to do with stepfamily. By the year 2000 the stepfamily will be the predominant form, more than nuclear or single-parent families. There are 1300 new stepfamilies forming each day in the United States alone.

But how do we add them to our genealogies without losing the aesthetics of a family tree? Who do we include? First, it is recommended that you discuss including stepfamily with those special members and get their feedback. Thanks to some good software programs and a little bit of creativity, it is possible to include them. Here ae some suggestions that other genealogists have shared:

  1. Record the family member's current spouse and all the children that each spouse has from the current or previous marriage. Generally, genealogists do not record spouses if the couple has divorced and they had no children.

  2. Many software programs include a 'notes' section that enables you to list family members not mentioned in the traditional format. You can then set-up your printer to print the notes section of any individual and thus include all members of the household.

  3. Deluxe Family Tree Maker by Banner Blue allows users to add multiple spouses. It also gives you the choice of printing some or all of them.

Some families accept and enjoy stepfamily more than others but genealogists agree that unless you are able to complete two trees, you are better off including everyone into one tree or chart.

Ultimately it is up to each family historian to decide how they want to handle stepfamily. Considering genealogy and family history is all about recording our time here on earth, it seems only natural to record all those immediate to us that shared that time.


Bloomfield, Harold H. Making Peace in your Stepfamily. New York: Hyperion, 1993.

Marshall, Dr. Peter. Cinderella Revisited. Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 1993.


This article appeared in the November 1996 issue of Hot Chocolate.

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