Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree -
February/March 2006 Timelines
Timelines play a critical role in genealogical research.
This is especially true when using any type of court
records dealing with land and probate matters. I just
returned from the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy where I
took the 20 course tract on Land and Court Records in
Genealogical Research. The importance of timelines was a
major focus in discussion throughout the week. This is the
first in a series of articles describing their importance
to the genealogical research process.
historians are accustomed to using charts and forms to
organize their research. Pedigree charts, family group
sheets, and descendant lists are standard tools of the
trade. Timelines are critical in helping genealogists
search for and verify information gathered during the
research process. All genealogists must learn the tools
for evaluating the information gathered from family
members, neighbors, passenger lists, court records, vital
records, family Bibles, or any other type of source from
which information is gathered. At some point the
following question must be asked: Does the information
gathered fit the circumstances?
Timelines are defined as a chart that graphically shows
events over a period of time. Depending on the type of
timeline that is generated, these events may be for an
individual, a family, or several generations. Some
timelines show personal events in comparison with another
person (or persons), such as birth and death. Others
compare a person?s life against a backdrop of historical
usefulness of a timeline may not be immediately apparent.
After all, genealogists are familiar with reading ancestor
charts and family group sheets. While they can be compared
to the lives of two people, they may not be the best
charts to use if several people are being compared or if
the people are not related. Details can be overlooked in
the lines of text on a family group sheet, but a timeline
? with its colors and bars ? literally diagrams a person's
graphical format of a timeline, as opposed to traditional
text-based charts, can be an aid to research and analysis.
Suddenly, it can be very obvious that a mother was over 50
years old when her last child was born or that there was a
ten-year span between the births of two children. Both of
these items should be clues for further research. Was the
last child actually a grandchild? In those ten years, was
there a child who died in infancy? The different format of
a timeline can make these details more obvious.
programs allow users to add historical events to a
timeline, which can give clues for further research. They
can also give historical context to the family by allowing
the researcher Some programs allow users to add historical
events to a timeline, which can give clues for further
research. They can also give historical context to the
family by allowing the researcher to add events that were
happening around the family. It is very easy to be
overwhelmed with historical events. Careful researchers
will include only those events that affected the family.
If the family was living in the United States during the
Civil War, it would be hard for them not to be affected.
of the new genealogical programs and software offer
timeline charting as part of the program's capability. We
will discuss these programs in the next article.
Fort Myers-Lee County Library
2050 Central Avenue
Fort Myers, FL 33901-3917
Tel: (239) 479-4651
Fax: (239) 479-4634
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