Monday Genealogy Tip: Timelines

Using a genealogy timeline

You don’t live in a void. Current events impact your everyday life, whether it’s the price of gasoline or searching for a new job. Although your far-back ancestors didn’t have to worry about buying gas, the events of their time impacted their lives just as much as yours do today. That’s why creating a genealogy timeline is a must if you want to understand more about the times in which your family lived.

Think about this. What do the think the difference might have been for your ancestor who lived during the presidency of George Washington versus your ancestor who lived during the Jefferson years? Do you know the events than spanned the beginning of Washington’s term (1789) and the close of Jefferson’s (1809)? Here are a few things to think about:

During the Washington years:

  • First Congress met in New York
  • James Fenimore Cooper was born
  • Louis Daguerre (pioneer of photography) was born
  • Mutineers of the H.M.S. Bounty settled on Pitcairn Islands
  • A German astronomer calculated the orbits of comets
  • First copper pennies minted in England
  • Washington, D.C. was founded
  • Jews in France were granted civil liberties
  • Benjamin Franklin died
  • Alexander Hamilton introduced his Funding Bill
  • Kentucky became a state
  • Louis XVI was executed
  • Denmark abolished the slave trade
  • Beethoven became a pupil of Hayden
  • Dollar coin was minted in the U.S.
  • Whiskey Rebellion took place in Pennsylvania

During the Jefferson years:

  • Federal offices are moved from Philadelphia to Washington D.C.
  • Sir Walter Scott wrote Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
  • Goya painted The Two Majas
  • Paris had 550,000 inhabitants
  • Ohio became a state
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson was born
  • 12th Amendment added to the Constitution
  • Alexander Hamilton killed in a duel with Aaron Burr
  • Louisiana Purchase was completed
  • Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explore the new territory
  • U.S. prohibits importation of slaves from Africa
  • U.S. Embargo Act passed against Britain and France
  • Napoleon abolishes Inquisition in Spain and Italy
  • Robert Fulton’s paddle steamer navigates the Hudson River
  • Men’s pigtails go out of fashion
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born

Obviously tens of thousands of other events were happening, but for me, these reflect a growing country and expansion in all fields.  But don’t stop with national or international events, research local histories to discover what was going on in your ancestor’s neighborhood.

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Links to Help in Your Genealogy Search

  1. Google Books (search for place histories or biographies)
  2. Newspaper Archive  (search historical newspapers)
  3. Your genealogy software probably has a timeline element that will show your ancestors lifespan
  4. Search Google, i.e. “history of england” or “what happened in 1857 Indiana”
  5. This Day in History

If you’re as much a history geek as I am, you may enjoy this lengthy article (PDF)

Presidential Difference in the Early Republic:
The Highly Disparate Leadership Styles of
Washington, Adams, and Jefferson
Princeton University

What Family Treasure Have You Saved? Save-a-Story Saturday

I am all about saving family stories. And, family treasures, although I have few of them.

For this Save-a-Story Saturday, I invite you to leave a comment about a family treasure that you’ve saved.

What family treasure have you saved?


Several years ago I wrote an article for the magazine Personal Journaling on keeping a 21st Century journal. In it, I bemoaned the fact that there were no diaries passed down through the generations and fewer still family treasures.

However, I have managed to gather a few . . . and they truly are precious to me. I’m in the process of photographing them using Shotbox, which is a pretty neat product that allows me to actually get a great photo of family treasures. So far, these are the keepsakes I’ve managed to save:

  • my great-great-grandfather’s straight edge razor
  • a few beautiful teacups
  • a text book that my great-grandfather used when teaching school
  • my grandmother’s cookbook
  • my great-grandfather’s bible
  • a locket
  • hand-held chalkboards used more than 100 years ago
  • my grandmother’s wedding dress
  • a hand-carved duck decoy

My goal is to write at least a paragraph about each of these, then insert my photos. Just think of the kinds of stories you can write about each of your keepsakes. Although I obviously wasn’t at my grandmother’s wedding, I can definitely imagine it. And, I have the ability to research photos of the time and place she was married as well as the events of the day. Now these are the stories that I love.  And, if I don’t do it, who will?

If you don’t do it, who will?

Thank you for leaving a comment and sharing what family treasures you’ve saved.