I’ve written a few times about the importance of using timelines to better understand not only your ancestor’s life, the world in which he lived, and the records you’ve accumulated. Timelines are an essential organizational and analytic tool.
One component of a good timeline are the historic events that occurred in your ancestor’s life. Our ancestors no more lived in a historic, cultural, or technological vacuum than we do. Their lives were often dramatically shaped by the world around them.
So, where do you go to find out what was happening “then?”
There are any number of great historical websites and reference books each of which you can glean a portion of the story whether it be wars, natural catastrophes, political events and so on.
But there is one very neat site that offers a one-stop shop for all historical events, and it can be customized to the life of your ancestor! OurTimelines.com is a wonderful free website, on which you can easily find yourself playing until the wee hours of the morning.
It’s a free site, no accounts, usernames or passwords are even needed. So you can be up and running creating timelines in seconds. Simply go to the home page (www.ourtimelines.com) and scroll down the page to the link at the bottom that says “click here” to get started.
Enter the name of your ancestor so it will appear on the top of the report. Enter his or her birth and death years. (You can make a timeline just for a period of his life, such as his War years, or his time overseas. You don’t have to be limited to birth & death date parameters.)
Click “Generate Timeline.” It’s that easy. In a couple of seconds it will return with a customized timeline for your ancestor. It will include historic events, “leadership” or who’s the President, King or other ruler, technology events, and disasters.
Further, you can create your own custom events, i.e. marriage dates, children’s births, military service, and it will weave those into the timeline.
With each event it creates for your timeline it will annotate the line item with the age your ancestor would be at the time. For example, my dad was two years old when movies first had sound. Neat.
Some of the events are underlined or hyperlinked. If you click on that the site will take you to a further description of that event. Not sure what the Abyssinian War was all about? Just click to learn more!
Finally, you can print a web page image of the timeline. The site provides directions under the FAQs.
The site is really neat, but I do have a couple caveats you should be aware of. I’m not a big fan of the black background and neon type faces. It’s hard to read and looks a bit cheesy. Secondly, it would be wonderful if this could be exported into an Excel file or csv format. It would be a lot easier to work with the data.
But, for free, it is a great tool and fun to play with.
Try it out – www.ourtimelines.com.