What is a Generation in a Family Tree?

Generation in a Family Tree

A common question we receive from users centres around the meaning of the term generation in a family tree. A generation represents the members of a family born and living around the same point in time. It is common to display family trees from the top down with the oldest generations being show at the top and the youngest generations shown at the bottom of the tree.

Take your own family, for example, you, your siblings and cousins would be considered one generation or the first generation. The generation above you would include your parents and their brothers and sisters (your aunt and uncles) and would be considered the second generation. The third generation of a family tree would include your grandparents and their brothers and sisters.

Generally speaking, the bottom level of the family tree will always be marked as the first generation, with their parents forming the second generation and their grandparents forming the third generation. As your tree develops and you discover more about the generations in your family tree, you will add a generation. With every new generation added we assign a higher number to the generation in a family tree. For example, we can have the third, fourth and fifth generations displayed in our family tree.

The image below shows five generations in a family tree. The first generation on the left. Charles is the 2nd generation, Philip is the third generation and so on.

Generation in a Family Tree Example

Generation in a Family Tree Example

Describing Members of a Generation in a Family Tree

Now that you understand the meaning of generation in a family tree, it’s important that we can add the correct naming conventions. The correct way to identify or name someone that has come from the generation before your grandparents is to add the word “great” to the title. Therefore to correctly describe the father of your grandfather we would use the term “Great Grandfather”.  In the diagram above Philip would be the “Grandfather” to William. Schleswig-Holstein-Son would be the “Great Grandfather” with Schleswig-Holstein-Son (on the very right of the diagram) being the “Great Great Grandfather”. As you move back through more generations you are simply required to add another version of the word great to the title of the family member. To this extent, you may have a member of a generation in a family tree with the title “Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather”.


What are Three Generations in a Family Tree?

When we refer to three generations in a family, we are referring to the grandparent and their siblings, parent and their siblings and finally the grandchild and siblings. This provides us with three generations in a family tree.