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
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. Chester County
1788 – Margaret was born in PA. The Constitution was ratified.
1790 – Neighboring
becomes the nation’s seat of
1793 – Law is passed in the
escaped slaves to return to their owners. US
1794 – Whiskey Insurrection in
1800 – Seat of government moves from
Philadelphia to . Washington,
1808 - Son George born on 3 May
1812 – US declared war on
Land Law set a fixed land price
at $1.25 an acre, minimum. US
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
Fallowfield Twp. Marshalltown
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