6 Ways Timelines Can Help with Genealogy Research

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It does nottake long to accumulate an abundance of papers, records, photos, and othermaterials while researching an ancestor. In the process, you may even lose track of what you were actually tryingto discover.  Creating a timeline canhelp you stay focused on your original objective.

If you have never used a timeline before in your research,you might choose to do so after you read through the following six ways theycan facilitate your research:

1. Timelines can help you keep track of where your ancestor was living whenimportant events occurred.  If your ancestor did not live in thesame place throughout his or her life, records to document the births ofchildren may be located in different places. If local geographical boundaries — or even international borders — changedduring your ancestor’s life, finding records can be more difficult.  A timeline is a good visual that helps you monitorthose various locales in which your ancestor conducted his daily life.

Example of a Timeline

2. Timelines can help you keep trackof each piece of evidence that you discover about your ancestor. You should extract the date and place for every event that you document,and add it to your ancestor’s timeline.  Bycataloguing the evidence in this way, you will notice any discrepancies indates and/or places.  Timelines will alsohelp ensure that you are following the correct line and greatly reduce the possibilityof inadvertently tracing the line of another unrelated individual with the samename as your ancestor.

3. Timelines can help you recognize whenpieces of evidence contradict each other. Sometimes youwill find more than one reference to an event or you may find your ancestormentioned in more than one record.  Ifthese records cite different dates or if your ancestor’s name is spelleddifferently, you will want to add each individual reference to your timeline,and create a separate timeline when dates, places or names begin to diverge.  With experience, you will begin to moreeasily identify discrepancies in records.

4. Timelines can reveal gaps in yourresearch or time periods for which you are lacking information about yourancestor.  With a timeline, it is easier to spot gapsbetween birth and death that may require additional research effort.

5. Timelines help you identify localevents that impacted your ancestor’s life. By comparingyour ancestor’s timeline to the dates when local events occurred (or evennational or international events of historical import), and then studying thoseperiods of time, you will gain greater insight into the daily lives of yourancestors.

6. Timelines help you identifyhistorical records that might include mention of your ancestor. Search out local records that were generated during the time between thebirth and death of your ancestor.  Many local,civic or parish libraries compiled histories of their residents orcongregants.  Perhaps you will find thename of your ancestor included there, and open a new chapter on his or her lifestory.

Often whendoing research for clients, Genealogists.com uses timelines to help ensure thatwe successfully accomplish your project's objectives.  Next time you are researching an ancestor,you may want to create a timeline.  Youmight be surprised how very helpful they can be.

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byRobin Foster © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Written by


March 14, 2014
Wesley is the founder of hello@traceyourpast.com.

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