As genealogists I think many of us question what the end product of all our hard work will be. Maybe we will write a book or make Heritage Scrapbooks. Maybe we will plan and host family reunions and try to share our research with whoever will listen. Most of us have family trees online that we share with other researchers. Perhaps we join societies and write stories for publication. Or maybe we will blog in the hopes that somebody will read your research.
I have dreamed up several such projects. I do plan to write a book – in fact I already have the title. I have also made one Heritage scrapbook and have several more in mind. And last summer I planned and hosted a family reunion in York, Nebraska. And of course I blog. I have also written an ebook for the homeschool blog I post on about doing genealogy as a unit study. It is in the editing phase now but check out our blog as it will be on there soon; www.nextgenhomeschool.com
Now I have started a project that I have been thinking about for a very long time. I am taking the vital statistics of my ancestors and plotting them in a blank history timeline book I bought at a recent homeschool convention. The events for my family I am writing along the bottom half of the timeline. Then along the top I will plot American history events. Not only national events like wars and presidents and such but also state local events that pertain to the areas my ancestors lived in. I want to more easily see what was going on when and where my ancestors lived. If an ancestor was in a war I want to plot what unit he was in and maybe where he fought. Perhaps I will see that my ancestors fought alongside, or heaven forbid, against each other in the Civil War.
I have a year to work on this timeline before I want to really put it into action. Since I have been blessed with the opportunity to homeschool I want to make History come alive for my children. I want to use this timeline to make a more interactive American History Curriculum for my sons. When we talk about the Battle of Lexington I want them to be interested because one of their ancestors, Edmund Parmenter, was there. And when we talk about The Civil War we can talk about their 4th great Grandfather, Charles Dyer who was a confederate soldier and died at the Battle of Shiloh – felled by a tree. Or their Great Grandfather Russ, who is still alive and was on the USS Honolulu at Pearl Harbor and fought in the Pacific throughout the war. So many interesting stories and with a timeline I can set them up in historical order.
As to the practical steps of making this timeline. As I said, I bought a blank timeline book but there are several websites where you can make an online timeline with pictures and stories. For some reason I am more of a paper and pen kind of gal when it comes to large projects like this. I did check out a few timeline programs that seemed interesting: SaveEveryStep and TimeToast are two great examples. I chose to make my timeline start at 1600 and move year by year up to current day. I ended up having extra pages and so could have started earlier but I am content with starting at 1600. For each person I plotted their birthdate and location, and death date and location. If I know they fought in a war or were in someplace interesting during an interesting time period I plotted that also. Next I will start plotting American History Events using a pre-made timeline I have. You can also find these online. And then I will go back and look at each person’s life and try to figure out where they were and what they were doing during each event. I’d like to find a story about each ancestor. For instance, I know one ancestor died of the Spanish Flu so that will be included also.
I wonder if anyone else has done their own American Family History Timeline? If so let me know how you did it and how it turned out.