google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html Gathering Family Facts on a Timeline | The Armchair Genealogist

Gathering Family Facts on a Timeline

Before You Write, Create a Timeline to See the “Big Picture”

Today's post is courtesy of Tami Koenig from Your Story Coach. Tami is helping our Family History Challenge members prepare for writing by creating timelines. But really timelines aren't just for writing, there a great tool for your research. Enjoy! 

Why create a timeline?
Creating a chronological list of events for an individual or family will help you make sense of what happened, when it happened, and where it happened. By gathering the significant events from your ancestors’ past and placing them along a single timeline, you’ll start to get a more comprehensive view of their lives.

And when you add world events to that same timeline, you’ll begin to see your ancestors within the context of the historical era in which they lived. You’ll start to understand how local, regional and world events may have influenced their actions.

If you take time to gather and organize all your information on a timeline in advance, your writing process will be much smoother. When you start writing your family history stories, you won’t have to stop mid-story to track down factual data—it’s already gathered on an easy-to-see timeline.

What to include in your timeline
Personal or family events:
·        Births
·        Marriages
·        Deaths
·        Moves or emigration
·        Religious milestones
·        Education
·        Military Service
·        Employment
·        Property transactions

Historical events:
·        Wars
·        Famines
·        Natural disasters
·        Religious intolerance
·        Gold rushes
·        Land offerings
·        World leaders, presidents
·        Technology, inventions
·        Popular books, films, music
·        Popular culture, fads

How to create your timeline
Your timeline can be as simple as drawing a horizontal line across the middle of a piece of paper and adding vertical lines to mark and label events. To make it more manageable, I suggest creating multiple pages divided into 10-year increments per page. Be sure to include names, dates and locations for each event.

If you’re working with a large amount of data, too much for a simple hand-drawn timeline, you may find my timeline workbook helpful. You can download Creating Your Personal Timeline from Your Story Coach’s shop.

You can also create timelines at This site allows you to enter the events and dates significant to the ancestral family you’re writing about and it will automatically add historical events to produce a personalized timeline.

About Tami Koenig | Your Story Coach
Tami Koenig is an award-winning writer and multimedia producer who works with individuals, museums, and corporations—helping them shape and share the stories they want to tell. She offers writing classes via Skype to Active Retirement Communities and Assisted-Living Facilities internationally, while her website, Your Story Coach, offers tools, tips, and inspiring ideas to help people preserve memories and share stories. You can follow Your Story Coach on TwitterGoogle+, and Facebook.


saveeverystep said...

Couldn't agree more with this. There are a few resources out there which can help, but readers may be interested in, specifially designed to enable families to capture and preserve their family stories on a chronological timeline, for posterity.

Edie said...

What a great idea! It seems so basic... yet I never thought of it. Okay, I'll make it part of my family history writing challenge. Thanks for a great post.

Mariann Regan said...

I like the idea of adding world events to the same timeline. There are so many broader world events that can change families' lives, like the Depression, wars in which family members are serving, and natural disasters (like the 1918 Spanish flu). I've found there are also local events that are really influential. Some local histories have really opened my eyes to the local cultures of my family!

Anonymous said...

I could not open in any form.

Devon Lee said...

I use RootsMagic and they have a TimeLine feature. It pulls in the information you have for an individual (Census, Birth, Marriage) but also lists the birth date, marriage and death of their children and spouse. It lists the death of parents and any additional marriage after the individual's birth. It lists the birth and marriage of siblings. I wish it would list the death of siblings as well. With this feature alone I was able to enrich my writings about my great grandmother swell from 2 paragraphs to 3 pages. I haven't even used historical facts yet. However, when I used that for a different Grandparent, the life story was truly compelling.

M.J. said...

Timelines have been a great help in getting organized for the Family History Challenge :)

startingsarah said...