Family life

Family tree revisited

Stepsister, stepfather, daddy’s new girlfriend… families expand but does it add branches to the tree? No because only blood ties count.

The question is legitimate: how do we build a family tree when we are part of a blended family? And we expect a complex and elaborate answer. It is very simple, says Gisèle Monarque, genealogist and President of the French-Canadian Genealogical Society. “A human being, no matter how his family is reconstituted, has only one father and one mother”, she says.

In fact, the family tree of children born or integrated into a blended family is the same as the family tree of a nuclear family. The new spouses and the new “brothers and sisters” (often called stepsisters and stepbrothers) are therefore excluded from that tree.

The word genealogy itself contains “proof” of the nature of the family tree. The first part of the word “genea” comes from the Greek and means race, family, birth. Therefore, genealogy is related to genetic bonds, says Mrs Monarque.

Whether your family is nuclear or blended, there are two types of family trees to go back to your roots: the ascending family tree, that regroups all the ancestors of the creator and the descending tree in which brothers and sisters are added to your ancestors.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Although blended families have increased because of the many separations and divorces over the past two decades, families with more than one nucleus existed a long time ago, says Mrs. Monarque. There were many at the time of the great-great-grandparents of today’s adults in their thirties.

Indeed, since many women died during childbirth, widowers remarried and had more children with their new spouse. Descendants of these men end up in more than one tree since some of them were born from a mother while their “stepbrothers” and “stepsisters” had for mother the other spouse of their father…

Today, it is the same for children of fathers and mothers who had children with their second spouse. For example, children born from the first union of a man will not figure in the same family tree as their brothers and sisters whose mother is the other spouse of their father, even if they have common genes (through their father’s blood)…

So if you want to build your family tree or your children’s, just start from the father and the mother from whom you were born and go “up” to their parents and so forth, until you reach the generation that you want to reach (French-Canadians usually reach the first European who has set foot on Canadian soil). The tree grows from one, then two and 4 and 8 ancestors and so on.

For more information

French-Canadian Genealogical Society (you can ask experts to put together your family tree)

Image de Josée Descôteaux

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