What is a genogram?
A genogram is similar to a family tree. It is a way to visualize key events in a family’s timeline (births, deaths, marriages, etc.) as well as the relationships between family members, over several generations. Genograms are typically used in the field of social work and family therapy, but have been adapted as a tool in other fields including genealogy, medicine, and even family business research and consulting.
How are genograms used in family business research?
Genograms may be used to document a variety of aspects of a family business. Randel S. Carlock (2009) advises family business clients to create a genogram to record the following details: demographic information (e.g., births, marriages, deaths) for three generations; key events in the family business timeline; and symbolic representations of the relationships between family members (e.g., close, conflicted, distant). According to Carlock, family business genograms help families understand the relationship between key business events and key family life events, the impact of birth order on family roles, and deal with family conflict.
Genograms: assessment and intervention , 3rd edition / Monica McGoldrick, Randy Gerson, Sueli Petry. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Call No: RC 488.5 M395 2008 (5th floor).
“Now updated and expanded in its third edition, and featuring revised genograms for easier reading, reflecting the growing and widespread use of genograms for clinical intervention, this best-selling text provides a standard method for constructing a genogram, doing a genogram interview, and interpreting the results. Genograms of famous families—Sigmund Freud, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, the Kennedys, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner, Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, the Roosevelts, and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few—bring the text to life, and help to elucidate the principles of family systems theory and systemic interviewing, which form the basis of genogram work.” (publisher’s website).
Consulting to family businesses: a practical guide to contracting, assessment, and implementation / Jane Hurlburt-Davis and W. Gibb Dyer, Jr. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003. Call No: HD 62.25 H54 2003 (9th floor).
The authors describe how genograms are used during the assessment phase of family business consulting. Chapter 3 provides guidance on how to read a genogram with examples of how various factors are represented graphically.
Carlock, Randel S. (Winter 2009) A tool to spark meaningful family dialogue. Family Business, 20(1), 52-55. Link to PDF (access limited to Brock Faculty,Students, and Staff).
Abstract: “The article offers advice on creating and using a genogram in family businesses. One of the functions of the family business genogram is documenting family experiences. The family business genogram is efficient because it is founded on sound social science theory about individual and family life cycles, family structure and family dynamics.” (Source: Business Source Complete Database).
Enterprising Rural Families (August 2006). What is a family business genogram and why is it important to a family business? http://eruralfamilies.uwagec.org/Newsreleases/2006_08_NEWSLETTER.pdf
This article provides information on using timelines and genograms to depict a family history and provides a key to symbols used in genograms.