Timelines can be an interesting supplement to your genealogy research.
A timeline is a chronological listing of historical events, a sort of
"history in a nutshell" as it generally is limited to one line or very
short entries. A timeline can be general and cover the history of the
entire world or a small area such as one county or it can be for a specific
subject, such as art, music, literature or war. A timeline can also
take many forms it can be in written form, either as a book or
wall chart; it can be a list of events; or a database that can be used
by itself or in conjunction with a genealogy program.
In school we usually study the large events and important people in
world history. In genealogy, we are looking at individuals who usually
had no influence at all on history but were deeply affected by it. A
timeline can help you put the two types of study together. You may not
know why your ancestors emigrated when they did, but a timeline may
remind you that they left after a war had swept through their part of
the world. We tend to compartmentalize study because we simply cannot
comprehend everything at once. We study U.S. history and then we study
Russian history or we study music but don't relate it to art which was
happening at the same time.
It is sometimes startling to realize what events were happening
simultaneously. In 1778 George Washington defeated the British
at Monmouth, NJ, while Beethoven was being presented as an infant
prodigy (at six, although he was really eight) and James Cook
was discovering Hawaii. In 1642, the English Civil War began,
Rembrandt painted The Night Watch, Galileo died, Isaac
Newton was born, Tasman discovered New Zealand and Montreal, Canada
was founded. While the American Revolution was occurring, Haydn
and Mozart were writing music and Beethoven was beginning to compose.
Also, Gibbon was writing Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
and Voltaire, Hume, Adam Smith, R. B. Sheridan, Schiller, Stendhal
and Washington Irving were all writing and the Montgolfier brothers
ascended in a balloon in France.
If you put "timeline" and "history" into your
favorite Internet search engine you will see there are several timelines
on the Web relating to various areas and subjects. Since the timelines from the Web are basically text items, you could
also edit these and customize to include events that were significant
to your family. For example, if your families were early settlers in
Illinois, you might be interested in a timeline of the history of Illinois
giving the dates of early settlement, wars that affected the area, statehood,
important elections, etc.
Your Family into a Timeline
You can also create your own timelines by hand, but when a timeline
feature is incorporated into a genealogy program, you can display timeline
events in with the events in your ancestors' lives. While one timeline
database may be fairly general, being able to select from different
timeline databases allows you to choose a set of events that may have
been of more interest to your family. You also want to be able to turn
off a timeline as all those extra events can be quite annoying when
you are simply working on your database. You may be able to incorporate
a timeline into some of your reports also.
The following example shows how a timeline can add another dimension
to a family history. All that is known of Johannes Christian N?chter
is that he was a farmer, had six children that were all born in the
same house in a small village and five of those children went to America.
It sounds pretty dull until you add in a timeline of German history:
Johannes Christian N?chter
Birth* 28 Mar 1771 Hessen-Nassau, Prussia.
Marriage* __ ___ ____ Anna Katharina Wiegand
Son: 13 Dec 1803 Jakob N?chter (1803-);
__ ___ 1805 Napoleon conquered Germany.
Son: 26 Feb 1805 Joseph N?chter (1805-1854);
02 Dec 1805 Battle of Austerlitz.
Napoleon defeated Austrian-
Son: 22 Aug 1806 Peter N?chter (1806-1868);
14 Oct 1806 Battle of Jena-Auerstadt.
Napoleon defeated Prussian army.
Son: 24 Mar 1808 Bonifacius (Bonaparte) N?chter
Daughter: 13 Jan 1810 Elisabeth Katharina N?chter
(1810-); Unterstork, Hessen-
Daughter: 30 Aug 1811 Anna Katharina N?chter Nichter
(1811-); Unterstork, Hessen-
__ Oct 1813 Battle of Leipzig.
Napoleon defeated by Allies
(mainly: Russia, Prussia,
__ Sep 1814 Congress of Vienna began.
__ Jun 1815 Congress of Vienna ended.
05 May 1818 Karl Marx born. Mainly known for
his theory about Communism and
28 Nov 1820 Friedrich Engels born. Together
with Karl Marx, developed the
theory of Communism and
__ ___ 1830 German immigrants to America
numbered 10,000 to 20,000 yearly
from 1817 through 1830.
__ Mar 1848 German revolution. Liberals and
Democrats were trying to
overthrow the royal class. It
had to fail, since it couldn't
establish real political
authority without the support of
the military, which was loyal to
the royal class.
__ ___ 1850 German immigrants to America
totaled 587,000 from 1831 to
__ ___ 1864 Prussian - Danish War.
15 Jun 1866 Prussian - Austrian war started.
23 Aug 1866 Prussian - Austrian war ended
with Prussia's victory.
19 Jul 1870 France declared war against
18 Jan 1871 Declaration of German Reich in
Versailles (near Paris).
06 May 1871 French - Prussian war ended with
What turbulent times those must have been! Napoleon's army must have
swept back and forth across where he lived. (The family must not have
received ill treatment from the French since one of his sons was known
as Bonaparte throughout his life.) His poor wife must have worried that
her children would get caught up in all the war raging around them.
It was clearly an unhappy time for many Germans as can be seen from
the number of immigrants. Five of his children were amongst those numbers.
Perhaps he was glad they had escaped to American when the revolution
came in 1848. We don't know when Johannes died but if he lived to 1864
he must have hated seeing all the wars start again. He was probably
never aware of Marx and Engels but he shared the times with these men
who had such an important impact on world history. Of course, Johannes
may not have concerned himself with anything beyond his horse and pigs,
but it does create interesting possibilities!
There is a different type of report that is also called a timeline.
This is in the form of a chart with years written across the top
1700, 1720, 1740, etc. Below this are names of individuals, either from
your database or historical figures, with a line extending across the
years when this person lived. In this way you can see how your various
ancestors in different geographical locations were contemporaries. You
can also see what famous composers, writers or rulers lived at the time
of your ancestors.
1760 1780 1800 1810 1820 1840 1860 1880 1900
--Karl Marx (1818-83)------
---Friedrich Engels (1820-95)--
--Johannes N?chter (1771-?)--------
--Peter N?chter (1806-68)------
-Joseph N?chter (1805-54)
-Bonaparte N?chter (1808-91)------------
Timelines can make genealogy more interesting and meaningful. If you
have an opportunity, try using them.