Genogram and Chronology


To ask questions, contact the instructor, Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D.

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For this assignment, you will construct a three generation genogram. This includes your grandparents' generation, your parents' and yours. You may choose to do more generations (e.g., if you have had children, you may do a four generation genogram which would include your children's generation or you may want to go back to great-grandparents). A genogram is not the same thing as a genealogy. A genealogy is a "family tree," primarily used to indicate legal family connections from generation to generation. A genogram, on the other hand, is a diagrammatic representation of your family's intergenerational system of such things as family rules, myths, legends, experiences, and events and these all have some impact on who you are as a person. Originally, it was used in family therapy, but can be useful for students in their efforts to make informed decisions about how they want to "do" family process in their families. Directions for building the genogram are provided below and in class. The information here comes primarily from Genograms in Family Assessment by Monica McGoldrick and Randy Gerson (1985). The symbols and methods used here are seen as the standard for depicting families in Genograms.

NOTE: The genogram drawing is the only part of the assignment that you may draw. The rest of the assignment is to be typed or word processed. It will not be accepted if this part is not typed or word processed. Please do not use poster board when making your genogram, unless it is ok for us to fold it. You will need to be able to fold the genogram down to approximately 8-1/2 by 11" in size. Work that is sloppy, contains uncorrected typographic errors and misspellings will be penalized. Exceptionally well written assignments will receive bonus points.

For this assignment, you will gather as much information as you can about your grandparents' generation, your parents' generation and your generation. The decision about including comparatively distant relatives (e.g., great aunts and uncles and their children) is up to you. Remember that this is to be a depiction of your experience of family and of the influence that family has had on you.

The basic genogram skeleton.

The "core" of the genogram is the genogram skeleton, and it was presented  in class and is included in the PowerPoint slides from the Generations lecture. 

Descriptive information.

In putting together the genogram, include as much descriptive information as you are able: names (if someone was named for someone else, note that); dates (of birth, marriage, divorce, cohabitations, etc.); occupations and job histories; illnesses; characterizations of family members (e.g. preferred child, scapegoat, show off, shy, etc.); characteristics or special talents that stand out (e.g., musical talent, great singer, writer, etc.). Watch for family legends, heroes, villains, etc. 

Family relationships.

The next part of the assignment is to draw relationship lines on your genogram. The symbols for relationships are included in the PowerPoint slides.

The family chronology.

Once you have completed the genogram, you will make a three generation family chronology (your grandparents, parents and you). This is a list of important events, those that are significant to your family's identify, and the dates (as near as you can come) to which they are tied. These include major life-cycle changes, moves, major family losses and acquisitions, major career changes, moves, major successes and failures, etc. In order to get full credit, you will also need to indicate why these events are important, and who they most directly impacted in the family. Remember that these events may have happened before you were born, especially in the case of your grandparents. You will probably need to do some detective work, so do not put this off to the last minute. Include at least five important events in the list (you likely will have more), and an explanation where necessary.

The following partial list was "gathered" by Linda Jones in an interview with her paternal grandmother. She would also have included similar information from her paternal grandfather (if available), her maternal grandparents, her parents, her siblings, and herself:

1939 Richard (Grandpa) Jones met Ruth (Grandma Jones) Meyers at a church social. He told her it was "love at first sight" but she thought it'd take her quite awhile to like this brash young man. Grandpa walked her home and serenaded her later that evening. Her parents thought he was nuts.

1940 Richard Jones and Ruth Meyers marry. Everyone thought they were rushing it but they felt they'd waited long enough to marry. Grandma had decided that Grandpa was right and they were very happy. Grandpa started his own business in the community and Grandma got busy "starting their family."

1942 Dick Jones, Jr. (my Dad) is born. Grandpa misses the birth because he is in Europe fighting in World War II. Grandma chooses the name to remind herself of Grandpa and to honor him. Late this year, Grandpa is captured and spends the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp. Grandma says he was never the same carefree man again after this and that sometimes his temper got the better of him. She also thinks this is why Grandpa and Dad couldn't get close.

1948 Lydia Jones (Aunt Liddie) is born at home in a snowstorm. No one expected the labor to go so fast and Grandpa actually delivered her. My dad was really upset and thought Grandma was dying. because no one would talk to him. Finally, Grandma let him hold his baby sister and he said she looked like a prune and if this was the best they could do, they could take her back. Grandma said this was one of the very few times that Grandpa ever cried and it was the only time that he cried and laughed at the same time. She thought that was why Grandpa and Aunt Lydia were especially close.

Questions on impact of the experience.

The final step is to look at your total genogram/chronology and answer this question:  What are your thoughts and feelings about the experience of doing the genogram?

(C)1996-2003, Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Last updated January 10, 2003..