Title: Exploring family history | Credit: Genome Research Limited

Family tree

Wellcome Connecting Science | Graphic | Empowering People: Genetic Counselling in Focus

Genetic counsellors work with people to understand their family history in relation to a particular genetic condition, a bit like carrying out a genetic risk assessment. The tool that they use is a family tree, also known as a ‘pedigree’.


Our genome is our entire set of genetic instructions, encoded in DNA. We have a copy of our genome in most cells in our body. The DNA in our genome is packaged up into pairs of chromosomes, which we inherit from our biological parents. Because this genetic information is passed on through generations of a family, a pedigree is a useful family history tool that enables a genetic counsellor to understand patterns of inheritance and risk factors.