FamilySearch Fan Chart: View and Research Your Family Tree


A FamilySearch Fan Chart view of your family tree has more features than you may realize. Discover why the fan chart on this free genealogy website provides insights into where you should spend your time when doing genealogy research.


What is the FamilySearch Fan Chart?


FamilySearch was the first to release a fan chart for online family trees. Their interactive family tree helps us visualize multiple generations in a condensed way. This is vastly different than a traditional pedigree chart.


The fan chart looks just like a handheld device waved back and forth to cool a user. The difference is that instead of using lace or decorating art, a FamilySearch fan chart showcase ancestral lines.


At the bottom center of the fan is the main person on the family tree. The subject's spouses and children are shown below that circle, while the ancestors appear in rings above.


This family tree is interactive as you can reposition the focus person by clicking on anyone in the chart and then clicking the fan chart icon. You can also click on an ancestor and view a quick snapshot of their genealogical facts.


Since its initial release, FamilySearch has enhanced many features that give you clues to your heritage and where your family tree needs a little work.


Customizing Your FamilySearch Fan Chart


While you have limited options to customize a printed version of the fan chart, you can change how you view the online version.


First, you can expand your family tree from 4 to 7 generations. I'm often overwhelmed by 7 generations and opt to view 5 or 6 generations.


Second, you can also invert the colors. The default is a white fan chart on a gray background. You can switch that to a black chart on a gray background.


Then you can customize the fan chart and leverage the tree for your genealogy research by changing what is highlighted on the chart. Keep reading to learn more.


Fan Chart Research Views


Several different views can help you do further research on your family tree.

  • Birth Country

  • Sources

  • Stories

  • Photos

  • Research Helps

Discover the advantage and pitfalls of each view.


To see all of these views, watch this video.



Birth Country View


In this view, you can see a color representing the birth country of your ancestors.


My chart has mostly Colonia America, Canada, the United States, Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany on my 7th generation chart.


If you see a wedge that is not colored white, that represents an unknown birth location. Those white wedges let me know I have some research to do to find the origin of several of my ancestors. Granted, they might be brick wall ancestors, but at least I have one place to benefit other genealogy researchers with my efforts.


A word of caution: The color-coding does not guarantee the FamilySearch family tree is correct. Don't print off and frame this view until you have validated the accuracy of the birth information.


Sources View


When you click "View Ancestors With Source," you can explore another genealogy research guide. The lighter the yellow, the fewer the sources. The darker the yellow, the more resources are attached to your ancestor on the family tree.


Please don't make the mistake that many people make when they look at this Sources Chart. An ancestor might have more than 10 sources attached to their profile, but only 2 of them might be unique documents.


I've previously discussed why there are multiple citations for the same source on FamilySearch. Keep that in mind and use this view as a guide. The individuals with fewer sources attached to them on FamilySearch might be the place where you want to lend a hand to the family history effort.


Also, avoid the temptation to jump in an ancestor with no sources. These could be brick wall ancestors and be very difficult to explore. Or they could be false ancestors, which you would recognize as you peer review the efforts of others.


↪️ Are you looking for more genealogy resources?

Grab your copy of this FREE Genealogy Research Guide:



Stories View


As a family historian, I do not just want to gather names for my family tree but also write my ancestors' stories along the way. The Stories View helps us know if we're memorializing our ancestors well.


You might be thinking, "I, I don't. I don't have any stories!"


If that's you, then you're in the right place. In my Facebook group and on this blog, you will discover tips and tricks for writing family histories. These tips are based primarily on my book A Recipe for Writing Family History, which had helped people write when they thought they knew nothing about their relatives.


If your family tree has found everyone from you back to ancient times, then click on this view and see where you can help preserve and document your legacy.


Photos View


Not every ancestor will have photos because they're further back in time, the fewer images are available.


However, you can use this view to see if scanned documents or photographed artifacts appear on your family tree. If they don't appear there and you have such images, consider sharing your family history on the tree.


DON'T clutter up FamilySearch with flags, flowers, ships, and other graphic icons. It's okay if your ancestor doesn't have a photo.


Research Helps View


The final view is where the research magic happens. In this view, you can explore notification from FamilySearch about potential data problems, record hints, and research suggestions.


As you research your family tree using this view, try to get the fan chart to be all white (or black in the inverted view) but resolving all the research helps on your fan chart. Once you do that, change the focus person and start over again.


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Discover the Power of the FamilySearch Fan Chart


This is a powerful view for you to be utilizing the fan chart not just to make a cool picture to show off your family tree but also to leverage it to know where you can spend your time and in researching and preserving the memories of your ancestors for fun.


For more FamilySearch Tips, check out these posts:


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