We have discussed timelines a little bit but let’s look more closely at the benefits of using this tool in our research.
If we start by listing every event concerning an individual or family in a spreadsheet (or document) showing the date, the event, and the URL or location of the supporting documents. Keep adding to it until you have sufficient information that answers all necessary questions. For instance, while some trees may show a man has remarried after the death of his wife or the assumption of death, the timeline may show that the second wife was actually the son’s wife or another man with the same name.
The timelines can also help determine whether or not certain events pertain to a certain individual such as military service. Another case involved the timeline proving that an individual could have been a witness to a document because he was just a young child and therefore there had to be another adult with the same name.
Listing all events can lead us to resolve other questions as well. When we find events such as selling land we look for when and how it was acquired to try and ascertain age. Listing anything that involves their children might also add to determining an age.
Another advantage is determining the movement of individuals and families. I recently pointed out that an individual who many believe to have moved to Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia) could not be there and also still be living in Culpeper County.
Most genealogical software will help catch such mistakes when they are mistakes. For instance, it alerts me that my grandfather married when he was 80. The answer is, yes he did. That woman, who was 70 at the time is the only grandmother I ever really knew. The software also shows me that a relative was born before his parents married, again, that is true. It also showed that he was born before his mother was born. Oops, fat finger syndrome, I had to go correct that oversight.
Timelines can help us keep on track as we do our research. Whether it is a timeline of an individual or a family, they help us see what we have, what we are missing, and maybe where to look for the answers. By creating timelines we actually develop a road map for our research.
Give it a try and see if it does not help you. Be sure to list anything and everything you come across.