Thursday, November 15, 2012


We have talked about Timelines in History which refers to the timelines of PLACES. Now I want to talk about timelines in relation to your ancestor.

It is important to follow your ancestor through time and record where he/she was and when as many times as you can. The more points that you can fill in on a timeline the better. Why? If you know where your ancestor was when, you will be able to predict where he should have been for certain events as well as possibly pick up on clues that will lead you to earlier locations (migration patterns). You can also see who was in the same place at the same time which might lead to familial connections. Here is a list of potential timeline events:

  • When and where was your ancestor born?
  • When and where did your ancestor marry? Multiple marriages?
  • When and where were each of your ancestor's children born?
  • When and where was your ancestor living for every census during his/her lifetime? Check federal, territorial, state and city.
  • When and where was your ancestor living when mentioned in a newspaper article? Was he/she named in an obituary? An engagement announcement? A wedding announcement? An anniversary celebration? On a list of letters waiting at the post office? In an advertisement?
  • Does your ancestor appear in any city directories?
  • Does your ancestor appear on any voter lists?
  • Did you ancestor serve on a jury?
  • Was your ancestor mentioned in any other type of court records? Was he/she a witness for an official document? Involved in a civil suit? A criminal case?
  • When and where did your ancestor buy/sell land?
  • Does your ancestor appear on any type of school record as a child, parent or teacher?
  • If your ancestor served in the military, when and where did he enlist or when and where did he sign up for the draft? Where was he discharged? Did your ancestor appear as a next-of-kin on someone else's military papers? Next-of-kin is given on WWI draft cards with an address/location.
  • Did your ancestor leave behind any letters or postcards that included a date and a location?
  • Does your ancestor appear on church membership rolls or in the church minutes?
  • If your ancestor was born in another country, do you have the year of immigration? A passenger list? Naturalization records? Passport/Visa?
  • When and where did your ancestor die?
  • When and where was your ancestor buried? People are not necessarily buried where they died. There might be some significance to where they were buried.

Here are two FREE courses on timelines offered by the Family History Library/FamilySearch:
Timelines and Lifelines, How Timelines Can Help You With Your Research
Using Excel to Create Timelines

All of the top genealogy database programs have a built in timeline feature as well.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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