After three decades of computational multibody system (MBS) dynamics, current research is centered at the development of compact and user-friendly yet computationally efficient formulations for the analysis of complex MBS. The key to this is a holistic geometric approach to the kinematics modeling observing that the general motion of rigid bodies and the relative motion due to technical joints are screw motions. Moreover, screw theory provides the geometric setting and Lie group theory the analytic foundation for an intuitive and compact MBS modeling. The inherent frame invariance of this modeling approach gives rise to very efficient recursive O(n) algorithms, for which the so-called “spatial operator algebra” is one example, and allows for use of readily available geometric data. In this paper, three variants for describing the configuration of tree-topology MBS in terms of relative coordinates, that is, joint variables, are presented: the standard formulation using body-fixed joint frames, a formulation without joint frames, and a formulation without either joint or body-fixed reference frames. This allows for describing the MBS kinematics without introducing joint reference frames and therewith rendering the use of restrictive modeling convention, such as DenavitHartenberg parameters, redundant. Four different definitions of twists are recalled, and the corresponding recursive expressions are derived. The corresponding Jacobians and their factorization are derived. The aim of this paper is to motivate the use of Lie group modeling and to provide a review of different formulations for the kinematics of tree-topology MBS in terms of relative (joint) coordinates from the unifying perspective of screw and Lie group theory.