Using Timelines to Augment Your Genealogy ResearchA general knowledge of the historical era in which your ancestors lived is important in putting the circumstances of their life in context. This is where timelines -- chronological listings of historical events -- can offer an interesting perspective to your genealogy research. They can help to take you beyond names, dates and locations to the "big picture" - events, situations and surroundings which probably had some sort of impact on your ancestors.
Creating a timeline for a particular ancestor or family group shows not only what events may have influenced their lives, but also helps you to determine further avenues for research. Major events (wars, gold rushes, plagues...) may have caused families to move or may explain the disappearance (or death) of a particular ancestor. Boundary changes may explain why you can't find your ancestor in the records of a particular area at a particular time. You can even use social timelines, such as timelines of clothing or hairstyles, to provide details on how your ancestor's lived.
To create your own ancestral timeline, begin with a simple timeline of the major events in your ancestor's life. Then use history books and pieces from historical and social timelines to add in local and world events that took place during the same time period. You should customize your timeline as much as possible to include events that were most likely to have a direct impact on your ancestors. There are also a variety of genealogy software programs and even a few online Web sites which can help you to create a custom timeline -- see timeline software and tools.
Timelines can really help bring your family to life - try creating one today!