Posted in Genealogy Toolkit, Research tips, Timelines

Time for a Timeline: A Downloadable Template for You

Time for Timelines 2So you are in a research quandry.  Perhaps you are suffering from information overload, and don’t know what to make of it all.  Are there too many pieces of evidence going through your mind? Are you trying to figure out what to do next?

Maybe it’s time for a timeline…

My little brain is too tiny too hold and sort more than a few pieces of evidence, so I use a research log and report for the “holding”, and a timeline for the “sorting”.  I’m guessing you have already discovered the benefits of timelines, and the need to make order of the events in an ancestor’s life while placing him/her within the context of local and world events.  If so, it might be time to update a timeline for your latest research project.

Timeline template snippet. Click on the link to download the template.  Dayna Jacobs (
Click on the link below to download this template.
Dayna Jacobs (

Downloadable timeline template

Timelines reveal gaps, inconsistencies, and conflicts in our research, but they also sometimes serve up a well-ordered line of logic that can make writing a proof summary or proof argument much easier. Timelines are valuable tools at any stage of research:

  • In the beginning they steer us to the jurisdictions most likely to house our ancestor’s records.
  • As we accumulate records they help us order and make sense of our findings, and they often nearly shout out to us what our next research objective should be.
  • At the conclusion of our research project timelines help us to prepare our proof summary or proof argument. Utilize timelines as the scaffolding for your research, but also as the showcase.

Create a timeline for an individual and another one for an entire family. Record the locality, date, and age for life events such as birth, marriage, death, birth of children, residence (census, directories, voter registration), land ownership, military, education, employment, and immigration, among other things.

Be sure to tie events to source documents in your research log for easy reference. Include significant local, state, and national events, such as wars, natural disasters, border expansion, change of jurisdiction, railway or waterway development, and mineral discoveries in your timeline. These things influenced your ancestor’s choices and will help you make sense of the personal events of your ancestor’s life.

Timelines are key to a good researcher’s success. Give it a try – you will be rewarded every time!

Posted in Maps, Timelines, Websites

Google Earth and time travel

Pick a date.  Now pick a state. Pick a date and a state and I will show you the state and county boundaries on that exact date using Google Earth.   I know you’ve heard of Google Earth and have probably used it.  You may have heard of the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries (AHCB) and, if so, have probably used it.  Have you used them both TOGETHER?  Until today I didn’t know it was possible.  Very cool! Continue reading “Google Earth and time travel”

Posted in History, Timelines, Websites

Learn Almost Anything for Free

Well, that’s what they claim  anyway at the non-profit Khan Academy online. They are on a mission to make learning available to anyone, anywhere, for free. So far I am impressed with this innovative website, where anyone can be instructed in topics ranging from Math and Science to History and Economics.  They currently have over 4,000 video lessons available.

Photo credit

They call themselves a “One World Schoolhouse”, or a global classroom, and that is pretty accurate.

For genealogists, the history lessons are so helpful, and they are offered for both United States and European History, as well as Ancient and Midievel, for those of you crazy genealogists who think you have traced your ancestry back to Adam 🙂

I just watched an 18 minute video overview of U.S. History from Jamestown to the Civil War, where my screen was filled with a virtual whiteboard where the teacher diagrammed a timeline, accompanied by maps and pictures.  It was so informative! I highly recommend it. I enjoy multi-media learning and tend to retain it better, and sometimes an overview can put things into perspective in a way that can lead me to new ideas for research.

learning onlineThere are a bunch of lessons I am looking forward to, and it’s a much better use of time than watching American Idol… but there’s nothing stopping me from doing both things at the same time, now is there?

Posted in Timelines

Six Flags over Texas, and Then Some


Today is the 177th birthday of the Republic of Texas, so let’s all celebrate!  I plan to eat a really big piece of cake. It is also Texas Flag Day, and if that wasn’t enough for one day, it is also the birthday of Sam Houston.  Good Grief!  Maybe that deserves two really big pieces of cake!

Texas has flown the flags of six different nations (Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America), so #4 is the Lone Star Flag, and it was officially adopted on 25 Jan 1839.


March 2nd, 1836 is the day the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed by delegates to the Convention of 1836 at the village of Washington-on-the-Brazos. The revolution against the government of Mexico had been underway for exactly five months, and the Alamo (in San Antonio) was under siege by Mexican troops.  It would fall four days later on March 6th. The courage of the defenders of the Alamo, and the cry,  “Remember the Alamo!”, would embolden fellow Texans as they battled for, and won, their independence in the coming weeks.

As awesome as the Lone Star Flag is, I was smitten by another flag of the Texas Revolution…

come and take it flag

I like to imagine a Texas NHL team named the Dallas Cannonballs (so much tougher sounding than the Stars) and the Dallas Cowboys with the word “Boom” on the sides of their helmets.

There are other pictures of early Texas flags you might enjoy while eating your cake. And on March 6th, be sure to Remember the Alamo!

photo credit:
photo credit:
Posted in Genealogy Toolkit, Immigration and Naturalization, Maps, Research tips, Timelines, Websites

A Few Interesting Timeline and Map sites

I’m posting links to a few animated maps and timelines, and mapping sites with a twist, like the U.S. History Primary Source Timeline, America’s Best History Timeline, World History Timeline, New York Times Immigration Explorer,  History Pin, and Timeline of Events in the West, There are lots of these kinds of timelines out there (just do a search in any browser), so find one you like and put it in your genealogy toolkit–handy sites that help you organize and interpret your research.

Having a historical timeline in your toolkit will help you understand the events that affected your ancestors’ lives, and can give you clues about what kinds of records to search.  Was there a war going on? Did the creation of a territory provide opportunity for free land?  Did world events stimulate immigration from certain countries?

Along with historical timelines for the nation, consider finding or creating state and county timelines, and always create a timeline for a family.  That should be one of the first things you do as you begin your research, but it can also be something that will help you when you are well down the road in your research and may have come to a dead end.

Integrate your family timeline with county, state, and national timelines and you may be surprised at the new ideas that emerge for your research.

TIP:  Keep your genealogy toolkit handy by creating a “Toolkit” folder on the “favorites” or “bookmark bar” in your internet browser, or create a  “Toolkit” folder in the Evernote program.