In genealogy, you start with the present generation and move backwards through time as far back as you can go. That’s the old school way and is still the best way to learn about your ancestors. We are lucky in have new and expensive tools to use, like computers and DNA and while DNA is a good tool, it cannot provide historical facts, like birth dates, death dates, marriage dates and, oh, yes, names. That’s where a timeline comes in handy. I use Microsoft’s spreadsheet, Excel for the task although my genealogy software, Family Tree Maker 2010, has a nice one. I actually use both. I create a timeline for an individual and export it to Excel. I copy the individual’s timeline to a tab in my main file, do a little clean up and voila, I have a timeline for that individual.
I have the timeline that I am constructing set up in Excel with worksheets for each individual and one for the lineage. I create a timeline in Family Tree Maker, for an individual and export it to Excel. I copy the individual’s timeline to a tab in my main file, do a little clean up and voila, I have a timeline for that individual. Simple, right? Well, yes, but sometimes you need to know about the entire family and that’s where Excel shines.
I don’t have to copy and paste the cleaned version of the individual timelines to the lineage worksheet, because Excel lets you link cells between worksheets and even between workbooks. To do this you have to make sure that your column headings are uniform across all the worksheets. I usually create a worksheet with the headings that I want in a worksheet. Then I copy them and paste them into the new worksheets as I create them. I work by family groups, putting each individual on its own worksheet, and then I link the worksheets to the lineage worksheet. This is very easy.
To do that, you select a cell in your lineage worksheet, type the equal sign, then go to the individual’s worksheet and select the cell that you want and press enter. That makes a link and the data shows up in the lineage worksheet. what you actually have is something like, =’Carl Mauritz’!F2, which in this case takes the data from cell F2 in the worksheet I named Carl Mauritz and displays it in the cell on the lineage worksheet, in this case, my great grandfather’s birth place of Grasvarne, Sweden.
These are the headings I use: Day, Month, Year, Name, Event, Location and Source. I do the date in that manner because Excel doesn’t handle dates earlier than the twentieth century well, so separating them out like that makes it easier to sort the timeline into chronological order, which is very helpful. The timeline for my Hendrickson line is too long for this blog, but next time, I will go into more detail about my great grandfather, Carl Mauritz Hendrickson and show you what his timeline looks like.