I'm a fiction writer, and I love designing my worlds and everything about them. I'm also highly visual, so I need to map/sketch/design things out so I can see how they look and work together. One thing I've never been able to map out to my satisfaction is family trees. I'm looking for a software or program which will enable me to map out extensive family tree relations.


So far, I've been using PowerPoint to track family trees. The software is perfect. The problem is that the space is limited.

At it's core, I want a program which will enable me to enter names into boxes/fields/what-have-you, which I can then move around freely. I want to be able to draw clear connectors between these boxes (a simple line is fine). I need a way to distinguish connectors (colors are fine). But this is the most important requirement: when I move the names, I need the connectors to move with them.

In PowerPoint, you can make two text boxes, and connect them from one of four points on each with a line. Then, when you move the text boxes, they stay connected. The end of the line connected to the box travels with them. That is the capability I need. I don't want to create someone's brother, then move him under someone else, and have to move the line also. I want the end of the line connected to the brother to move with the name.

Why can't I use PowerPoint? I can. I am, however, hoping that there is an alternative with more room. Ideally infinite space, like in Microsoft's OneNote. If that is not an option, something big enough to hold extensive family trees will work (look at some royal family trees to get an idea).

What about family tree software? Most are too expensive, have recurring subscriptions, or are too geared towards something else (see Things I DON'T Need). I haven't seen them all however, so what I want could easily be out there.

Program or Software? Either. I would probably prefer a desktop program over something online, but I'm willing to work with either as long as it gets the job done.


I would prefer a free program or software (obviously). Recurring subscriptions of any kind are not going to work. A one-time price can work, but anything above $30 is going to be too high. The best option would be free, and I'm fully willing to give up some bells and whistles as long as the core functionality I need is there.


I'm running Windows 10 on a PC. iPhone is not entirely out of the question (if it can be navigated easily), but I would prefer a program/software on my PC. Mac is not an option.


To sum up:

  • Must be able to insert and freely move names.
  • Must be able to connect names together.
  • Must be able to differentiate connectors.
  • MUST be able to have connectors remain connected to names when the names are moved.
  • Must have space. Infinite is ideal, but as long as it can hold the entire family history of, say, the British Royalty from 1066 on, then I'm good.
  • Ideally must run on Windows 10, but iPhone is available if Windows 10 won't work. Mac is not an option.
  • Must NOT go above one-time price of $30. Recurring subscriptions will not work. Free is HIGHLY desirable.
  • Must NOT require an account, if it's something online. I'd prefer to not give out my email. I'll go this route as a last resort.

Things I DON'T need:

These are common features of family tree programs which I don't need. They aren't a benefit or a boon to me (unless I say otherwise), but a program without them will probably be cheaper, which is a big plus. I DON'T need:

  • Pictures. Since these are fictional family trees, places for pictures will only get in the way. I'll be able to work with this if I have to.
  • Online. Some family tree programs assume you're charting a real family tree, and try to help by looking names up online and pulling information. I will need to be able to turn this function off if it is present. An added bonus would be a program I can run completely offline.
  • Ads. I can handle some ads, but I don't want pop-ups or in-your-face big ads. I don't to be distracted (I can cover up small ads with other programs).

Please let me know if you need more details. I will be happy to provide them.


3 Answers 3


Your use case is a type of "graph diagram" or "network diagram", and what I use for those is yEd. Its home page does specifically mention that it supports family tree diagrams.

I believe it meets all your requirements, including being free of charge. It's designed to run locally on a desktop or laptop (rather than on a smartphone). Once downloaded, there is no need to be connected to the Internet.

There are other graph editors besides yEd which would probably also work, but so far I like yEd the best.

By the way, I like the detail and clarity of requirements in your question.


I am not going to put too much effort in here, because 1) the question is already answered and 2) the OP is “highly visual”.

I am not sure if “highly visual” means when designing, e.g. by drag & Drop, or the end result.

Much as I do love yEd, it won’t auto-arrange your family tree when you add a new character. And, much as love yEd, I love GraphViz even more.

It lets me describe my diagram textually and then arranges my infinitely large diagram for me. I can override some of the auto-layout if need be, but don’t normally have to.

There as some very helpful Google hits for Graphviz family tree, such as Family tree layout with Dot/GraphViz

But there are even more good hits for Graphviz org chart which, when you think of it, is what a family tree is.
See for instance How to programmatically draw an organization chart?

Take a look at this, which shows how this text

digraph hierarchy {

        nodesep=1.0 // increases the separation between nodes

        node [color=Red,fontname=Courier,shape=box] //All nodes will this shape and colour
        edge [color=Blue, style=dashed] //All the lines look like this

        Headteacher->{Deputy1 Deputy2 BusinessManager}
        Deputy1->{Teacher1 Teacher2}
        {rank=same;ITManager Teacher1 Teacher2}  // Put them on the same level

Produces this org chart

enter image description here

You can label all the arrows, of desired, and there are What You See Is What You Get editors, where you edit your text and the resultant diagram is shown side-by-side.

So, possibly a good alternative, especially the auto-layout feature? Plus, it's free and well supported.


You can use BALKAN OrgChart

It allows you to Build, manage and share your organizational charts. Free forever for small organizations.

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