I have to admit that, while I can see the value in genealogy timelines, for the most part I haven’t seen the need to use them. There are exceptions, though, and for me the exception is a brick wall. I had the pleasure of attending Thomas MacEntee’s and Lisa Alzo’s Hack Genealogy Holiday Boot Camp and discovered all kinds of neat little tips. One tip which I explored right away was using Timetoast to create a timeline for my husband’s black sheep 2x great grandfather, Isaac Sturgell.
Timetoast does require that an account be opened and there is a free version, which suited my needs perfectly. There are ads displayed, but they are easy enough to ignore.
Isaac was born about 1823, probably in Grayson County, Virginia. He died on 26 February 1909 in the Poorhouse of Barry County, Missouri and was buried in an unmarked grave at Oak Hill Cemetery. In between his birth and death, he was a busy man on the move! He married four times in four different counties and two different states and left crumbs of a paper trail in Lawrence County, OH, Barry County, MO plus Benton, Pope, Carroll and Boone Counties in Arkansas.
The timeline I created is a simple fact-based list of what he did where and at what time. I didn’t add any images or lengthy descriptions, but Timetoast produced a very usable format to guide my recent research in Salt Lake City.
I have cropped out the ads and extraneous information. Each blue dot represents one fact in Isaac’s lifetime. I also created a time span note from his birth year until his death. The time span is displayed along the light blue bar under the dots.
One thing I didn’t like was that a full month-day-year format was required. While I have exact dates for some events, for others (including his birth), I only have a year. I entered January 1 for the exact date, but would have preferred to leave the month and date blank if I didn’t know it.
Underneath the timeline, on the right side (not seen in the cropped image above) were several small buttons, enabling me to have the events appear in list format and/or to enlarge the time line several times. There is also a Timeline button that can be scrolled to the right and left. However, while I thought that scrolling it would highlight each of the events in the timeline box, it only opened the list of events.
There are three columns, for the Event Date, Event Title and Event Description. As you can see, I filled in the dates and put the very short description into the Event Title. You can see where I also added the county and state into the Event Description. At the bottom of the list, there is a Timespan Description, where I entered Isaac’s life span years.
This timeline was very handy as a quick reference list while I was expanding my record search for Isaac in all the places where he lived.
If you haven’t used computer-generated timelines, but would like to try one out, I would recommend Timetoast.