Monday, 8 June 2015

Timelines put genealogical events into perspective

Timelines are a great asset in genealogical research. They can help put personal and family events into perspective by including local, national and even global events. 

They also come in quite handy if you have relatives with the same repeating name or even similar names. My husband’s side (the Eckman family) has one branch where everyone is John something or other. Timelines help me make sure I have the right spouse and children with the right John Eckman! 

Including local and national events may give insight on why you are having a hard time finding information. It may also give direction. For example, my uncle was born in 1916 and died in 1918. It was not until I spoke with a local funeral director that I realized how badly the flue epidemic hit Coatesville in 1918 that I realized why I was having such a hard time. She and a local parish priest both confirmed that, sadly, so many died that many babies in particular were buried in group graves left unmarked and now barely remembered. 

Using my my 4x great grandmother as an example:
Margaret Still is my 4x great grandmother. She was born in 1788 to Charles and Margaret Rhoades Still, of Uwchlan Township, Chester County. She has three brothers: Charles, Henry and Jacob. My family line gets a little confusing when I get back to her since she had two male children out of wedlock. The father – or fathers – are unconfirmed. When she got pregnant, her father put her out on a farm in a different township within the same county. I always wondered how she made a living and got on with her day to day life without any family support. 

Margaret’s Timeline:
1788 – Margaret was born in PA. The Constitution was ratified.
1790 – Neighboring Philadelphia becomes the nation’s seat of government.
1793 – Law is passed in the US compelling escaped slaves to return to their owners.
1794 – Whiskey Insurrection in Pennsylvania
1800 – Seat of government moves from Philadelphia to Washington, DC.
1808 - Son George born on 3 May
1812 – US declared war on Britain.
1820 – US Land Law set a fixed land price at $1.25 an acre, minimum.
1823 - Son David born
1827 - Court records show David Phillips committed fornication against her.
1828 – As per Sheriff Deeds, she purchased three (3) lots from the Kennedys in East Fallowfield Twp.
1830 – Her son George marries Sarah BING on 30 December
1830 - land records show Margaret sold son George 37 acres, a bldg, a horse and a cattle
1845 - son David marries Agnes Armstrong 16 April
1850 - census shows her living w/David and his wife and their son William in East Fallowfield Twp.; Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850 and East Fallowfield Twp. Played an active role in the Underground Railroad.
1851 - 23 January she sold George land purchased on 2 Feb 1829
1870 - census shows her living w/David in Marshalltown, East Fallowfield Twp.
1871 - 4 December wrote will
1872 - Margaret died in East Fallowfield Twp., Chester County, PA
1872 - 15 August will executed 

A timeline essentially puts events in chronological order and incorporates them with historical events. By creating a timeline, I can now see where I need to focus as well as understand my ancestor in a more historical context.


© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015


  1. I am a great advocate of timelines, and use them in my family history narratives. I liked your point that they can be particularly useful when so many ancestors have the same name.

    Family History Fun

  2. Nice post. Timelines can be very useful. I believe I do mine by making notes in chronological order in my data base. Never thought of it that way tho. (lightbulb moment here!)

  3. Thank you both! Timelines have become a standard tool for me! They kind of put everything into perspective.


Hello, thanks for leaving a comment on the World Wide Genealogy Blog. All comments are moderated because of pesky spammers!

Best wishes
World Wide Genealogy Team