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So Many Dates: How a Timeline Can Help Your Get

So Many Dates: How a Timeline Can Help Your Get Organized

One of the biggest challenges for beginning genealogists is getting organized. When you start, there are millions of different resources at your fingertips, and you may already know a good deal about your family history, at least about the most recent family members. One of the tools you can use to help you organize your information and see your research more clearly is a timeline. These can be simple or advanced, but in either case it is a good way to find gaps in your research.

The most basic type of timeline is the ascendance chart. Simply start with yourself, branching off to the left and the right for your parents, and then branching off again for your grandparents. This type of timeline usually does not include more than five generations, and is most beneficial for older people who want to uncover facts about generations close to themselves who have passed away. Some things to include on your timeline are dates for births, deaths, marriages, religious rights, name changes, retirements, military service, births of children, and moves. You may also wish to include other dates that are significant to your family. The easiest way to do this is by using a color-coding system-blue for marriage, green for births of children, and so forth. Be aware that many things may happen on the same date, so leave ample room to write. For example, your parents may have gotten married the same year you were born and the same year that your grandmother retired and the same year your great-grandfather died. Color-coding helps you keep this information clear.

If you don't want to attempt this by hand, you can also use a computer to make a timeline. Many software programs are available, but be sure to research the functions of each one before making a purchase, since this can get expensive. Sometimes you can download a trial version from the Internet to get a feel for the program, and this is especially useful to make sure it is a good fit for your needs.

Timelines can help you figure out a lot of things. For instance, if you want to find out the date that your grandfather died, fill in as much other information as you can first. Obviously, that date will be after his last child was born, but if you can't remember him, then it was before you were born (or at least before you were very old). Information about your grandmother may also determine your grandfather's death date-did she remarry? Is there a point in her life where she needed to get a job, which might indicate that her spouse passed away? By putting together the pieces of the puzzle, you can then find a range of dates for research. This works not only for deaths, but for all information, so timelines are invaluable.

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