Tree view / thread view seem the most used and appropriate for relationships that are not going too deep (three or four levels) and are a strict hierarchy (no circular or cross references, every child has exactly one parent.)
The upper levels should have more visual importance (placed more to the left, using a larger / heavier font, having more space around it, etc.) Think for example of chapter indices.
In general, hierarchical relationships should have some sort of way to provide overview, and the ability to zoom in to lower leves / more detail. Think about which information is important at which level. For a more visual approach, the Google map approach is interesting in many ways, because you can get from incredible overview to incredible detail in very few steps. But also think of what google is displaying at every level: country names on the planet level, but streetnames won't be visible until you reach a certain zoomlevel. Kinda obvious if you don't think about it, but it is really important to display the right kind of detail to the user at every level: show them what they need, but allow detail to be easily ignored.
You also might get more inspirational ideas from http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/06/50-great-examples-of-data-visualization/