Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Timelines: How to Get More Out of What You Know

by Heather Murphy

Whenever you start researching an individual or family one of the most helpful things to do is make a timeline, or chronology, for them. By creating an outline of what you know you can gain ideas of where to search for the additional information you need and identify conflicts with the information you already have.  Timelines are especially useful with families that have not lived in the same place.

To create a timeline, look at the person/family you are researching and extract the dates, places, and people involved and put them into a spreadsheet or a table.  You can also write it out on paper, but inserting rows when you learn new information is more easily done in an electronic format. Using the table method makes it very easy to scan and interpret the data, in comparison to program generated timelines.

Sometimes you will start with very little about your ancestor when you begin, other times you will know a lot of information, and timelines help in either case.  You can better understand the migration of a family and where to look for records when you include all the data you have that would indicate where a family lived at a certain time.  This includes events in the lives of children, spouses, parents, and siblings if those events are likely to help in understanding the location of the family.

You can create as many columns as fit your needs, and sometimes it may vary depending on your specific reason for creating the timeline.  As you see below, this example includes the date of the event, location, identified the event, the person the event was for, other people of interest in the record, and the source of the information.  You can add rows to the table as you learn more about the family.

2 Feb 1836Bohemia/CzechBirthPeter DvorakDeath Certificate
Jan 1862Bohemia/CzechBirth - childJoseph Dvorak1900 U. S. Federal Census
abt 1865Bohemia/CzechBirth - childMaria DvorakPassenger List
abt Apr 1868Bohemia/CzechBirth - childFrank DvorakPassenger List
2 Dec 1868New York, New YorkArrivalPeter, Anna, Joseph, Maria, FrankBarb, Kath, Josefa, Wenzl Urban of Bohemia; Also a Jos Urban listed close in list, but from UngasteinPassenger List
28 May 1870Boscobel, Grant, WisconsinBirth - childAmelia DvorakFamily information
abt 1872WisconsinBirth - childJohn DvorakFamily information
24 Jul 1875Boscobel, Grant, WisconsinBirth - childAnna DvorakFamily information
4 May 1878Muscoda, Grant, WisconsinBirth - childJosephine DvorakFamily information
15 Aug 1884Brule, South DakotaBirth - childAnton DvorakFamily information
21 Aug 1888WisconsinBirth - childCharles DvorakFamily information
abt 1890IowaArrivalPeter Dvorak1915 Iowa State Census
29 Jul 1890Lourdes, Howard, IowaBuried - childFrank DvorakFind a Grave
12 Feb 1898Howard, IowaMarriage - childAnna DozarkTo John Viebrock. Dau of Peter and Anna (Urban). Witnesses Henry Viebrock and Josephine DozarkIowa Marriage Records
16 Jun 1900Saratoga, Howard, IowaCensusPeter, Ann, Charlie, Anton1900 U. S. Federal Census

By making a timeline for Peter Dvorak's family you can see his migration from Bohemia to the United States, through several states, and finally ending in Iowa.  By identifying what we know we can more easily look for inconsistencies in the information, identify questions that need answered, and get clues of where to look for additional information.  Below are some of the clues and questions gleaned from this timeline:

  1. In the 1870 Census Peter's family would most likely be living in Wisconsin.
  2. In the 1880 Census they could be living in either Wisconsin or South Dakota.
  3. Do birth records exist for these counties and states to verify family information?
  4. Is there any evidence to corroborate that Anton was born in South Dakota?  It seems abnormal that the family would move from Wisconsin to South Dakota, then back to Wisconsin and then down to Iowa within ten years and should be verified.
  5. Continue to look for Peter in Iowa in records past 1910, such as census, death, and cemetery.
Most genealogy database software, such as RootsMagic and Legacy, will also create timelines for you.  Often it is a feature that is not included with the free version.  It is most effective if you have been entering additional events, such as censuses and the buying/selling of land.  

Legacy Family Tree - Chronology View creates a timeline with the facts that are attached to your individual.  As you attach sources more facts are added to the timeline for that individual.  There are a few options for customization, such as showing Family Events (births of siblings, etc.) or Historical Insights (national elections, major earthquakes, etc.), and the ability to add any additional events. - Fact List (timeline)

Timelines are a great tool for identifying what you know and visualizing how your data works together.  They make it easier to recognize conflicting information and to identify where to look for additional information.  Timelines are one more tool to help you be a more organized genealogist and to coax more clues out of the information you already have.

No comments:

Post a Comment