Maybe this one will change your mind …
Timelines. Who doesn’t love a good timeline? It can help you see gaps in your ancestors’ lives, lead you to places to look that you hadn’t thought of before, or convince you that your ancestor could not have been in two places at one time. It can even give you an amazing way to present your family history to your actual family without the accompanying eye-rolls and glazing over! They are a very useful tool for your genealogy research toolbox.
Most of the time, you’ll probably just need something simple to give you some sort of visual representation of your ancestor’s life.
These aren’t very hard to put together (and, quite honestly can be done with paper and pencil with the same result). This is part of one that I began working on for one of my ancestors. This makes it much easier to see if children are born too closely together or if there might be children in between the ones that you have identified – perhaps they died as infants, etc.
Answer a Specific Question
I am (still) trying to determine when and where my 2nd great grandmother was born. I would normally rely on Evidentia (affiliate link!) to help me figure out this problem because it’s awesome at doing that … but this is one of those rare times when I simply need to look at the big picture and manipulate the information until something pops out at me. So I created a timeline. It’s a little more complex than my earlier one, but still quite easy to use.
In addition to the year, I have included a location, event, and my source information. Using this format, I’m able to see which sources are likely derivative of other sources (like her death certificate and obituary), so I don’t count those as independent sources – which was helpful because these were the only sources that gave her place of birth as Michigan. Every other source I have found so far gives her place of birth as Illinois. I can also make notes about the source, the information, or questions that need to be answered.
Put People in Their Places
Sometimes, you need to look at your ancestor with a magnifying glass … other times, you need to see where your ancestor fits into the world and its history. I wanted to make sure I was checking all the records I could about all of my ancestors, and I didn’t want to forget about military records. I created a timeline of all the wars or conflicts I could find and then marked my ancestors’ lives as they relate to the wars (these are just the U.S. ones).
Now, I have used Excel for a very long time, but I don’t consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination. There are a lot of features in Excel that I simply don’t use … ever. (I’m not gonna lie, I’m not sure I will ever understand pivot tables). Fortunately, there are experts out there. Some of them even have websites where they do amazing things with spreadsheets.
Believe it or not, this was created with an Excel spreadsheet. It’s a little more complicated, but not impossible to do. The folks over at Vertex42 have provided step-by-step instructions on how to use Excel to create this (or your own) timeline. If you aren’t all that familiar with Excel, or you simply don’t have time to create this from scratch, they do have the templates for sale (they were free when I downloaded mine … so this is a new development). For me, $20 is a little steep for one spreadsheet template, but when you consider that the template’s primary purpose is to “help you create historical timelines, such as events in a person’s life or perhaps the history of a company or organization,” it might be worth it to you.
You have to admit … it’s pretty impressive.
No download this time – but only because it would probably take you longer to download one of these (mine) than it would to just create it.
What sort of thing would YOU like to see a spreadsheet do?
Vertex42 has not provided any compensation for my opinion (other than having a free download a couple of years ago), and I am not affiliated in any way with the company.
Do we share ancestors? Email me: lostancestors AT gmail DOT com
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