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 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.