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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - December/January 2006
Timelines - Part Two

Part two of this series covers several of the new genealogical programs and software.  These products offer timeline charting as part of the program's capability.  Some of the more popular examples used by our local genealogists are listed below:

Family Tree Maker 2005
The timeline view in Family Tree Maker 2005 places life-spans on a backdrop that marks off decades. Users have the option of adding historical timelines to the chart. Categories of historical events that can be added include Arts, Asia, Economics, Europe, Military, Politics, Religion, Technology, United States, and the World. Any or all of the categories can be placed in a timeline at the bottom of the chart or interspersed through the body of the chart.

Timelines in FTM 2005 are fairly basic. People are listed in chronological order. Users have the option of including any information they have entered on the family page. All the individuals in a database can be included, or users can select ancestors and/or descendants of a person. People can also be chosen individually to be included or excluded from the timeline view. Users can alter the format, including the interval of the tick marks (the default is one tick mark for every two decades), the flow of the years (left to right or right to left), and the appearance of fonts and boxes.

To access timeline view in FTM 2005, click on "View," then click on "Timeline" near the bottom of the list. The buttons on the right side of the timeline view control data and formatting options. Once the timeline has the desired features, users can save the view by clicking at the top on "File," then "Save Timeline as." Saved timelines can be viewed later by going to File>Open Saved View and then clicking on the name of the desired timeline.

Generations Liberty Edition 8.5
Generations Family Tree Liberty Edition (with EasyTree 8.5 and EasyChart 8.5) has a timeline chart feature. It does not have the pre-set events that users can incorporate as in FTM. Generations uses what it calls "perspective events." Users can add these events, as well as change formatting for them on the chart, save them as a set, and use them again in other timelines.

The individuals on the chart can be arranged in several ways?sorted by birth date, death date, age, last name, or descendants. The descendant option arranges the individuals as they would appear on a traditional descendant chart with subsequent generations being indented. The use of color also assists in sorting out the generations.

Users can create a timeline by going to the family card window of the desired couple. At the top of the screen, click Charts>Timeline Chart. Several choices are offered at this point, including whether to include all individuals in the database, marked individuals only, or descendants of the current couple.

Timelines can be saved for future viewing. While in the EasyChart section, choose File>Save and give the timeline a name. This timeline can then be viewed again in EasyChart using File>Open.

Family Origins 9.0
Family Origins 9.0 has two types of timelines: a chart, similar to what has been discussed previously, and a text-based list of events. Unlike the other programs discussed so far, Family Origins does not have the ability to add historical events, nor can a timeline report be saved for future use.

The chart type of timeline can be found under Reports>Timeline. Users can adjust the format of the names, fonts, and colors used in the horizontal bars, as well as choose whether to include the entire database or selected people. If the user opts for "selected people," upon clicking "create" a new menu will appear. From here, users can select who to include in the timeline. There are many options, including individuals (even unrelated ones), descendants and/or ancestors of an individuals, etc. Individuals can also be excluded from a timeline.

The descendant and ancestor options allow the user to set the number of generations and to include spouses. Choosing to include ancestors of an individual also gives options on including just the direct line, the direct line and their spouses, or all of the ancestors and their collateral lines. Similar options exist for a timeline created for descendants of an individual.

The second type of timeline that Family Origins 9.0 can generate is a text-based list. Rather than displaying a person?s life against tick marks representing decades, it gives a chronological list of all the events entered for that person, either as an individual or with a family. It can be generated from Reports>Lists>Timeline List (Family) or Reports>Lists>Timeline List (Personal).

Legacy 3.0
The timeline features of Legacy 3.0 are similar to other programs, although it is in black and white, rather than in color. You can save the timeline report, but you can?t add historical events.

To find the timeline, go to Reports>Select a Report and then click on Timeline. The timeline report menu gives the option of including either the ancestors or descendants of a particular person. It defaults on the person highlighted on the family view, although users may select a different individual with "Record Selection" at the bottom of the timeline menu. Users can define the number of generations to include. The Report Options button gives additional options, such as whether to include the data of living persons. Living persons can also be listed as "living" rather than by name.

The Master Genealogist v4.0d
The Master Genealogist 4.0d handles timelines a bit differently than the other programs. Rather than showing life spans as bars on a chart, TMG?s timelines emphasize the events in a person?s life and historical events.

Version 4.0d comes with 41 different historical timelines. There is also a function in TMG that allows users to create a customized timeline. A common custom timeline outlines dates of county creations where the family lived. Wholly Genes, makers of The Master Genealogist, encourages users to share the timelines they create and to submit them to the Wholly Genes Web site. All of the latest timelines are included with version 4.0d.

Users can select any number of timelines and apply them to specific individual(s) in the database. If applied to the entire database, the timeline will show only those events near a person?s life. For example, if a person was born in 1935, it would not show the beginning and ending of the American Civil War (1861?65).

To add a timeline, either globally or to an individual, select Tools>Timeline, then Globally Selected (to apply to the entire database) or Locked to this Person (to apply to the person currently in the person view). To see the historical events appear in person view, click on Tools>Timeline>Status or use the timeline button on the left side of the screen. Having timelines appear in the person view will slow down performance.

A printed timeline can show the historical events in addition to the events entered for that person. To print this report, click Report>Individual> Detail>Individual Detail. To include the historical timelines, go to the options 2 tab and select Timelines: Globally Selected and/or Locked to Each ID. Users have the option of generating this report for a group of people using the focus tab.

Genelines 1.2P
Genelines is a utility software program designed specifically to create timelines. It can read GEDCOM files as well as files directly from Family Tree Maker (through version 8.0) and Personal Ancestral File (versions 3.0 through 5.0). It has three sets of historical events included with the program, with more available at the Progeny Software Web site. Progeny also has a free add-on program for Genelines that allows for easier creation of new history files, which Progeny encourages users to submit for sharing on its Web site.

Genelines has two types of charts: biographical and relationship. The biographical charts ?individual life bar and comparative life bar ? use events from the person?s life. Default categories of life events include health, occupation, relationship, religious, and residential. Users can add other categories. The individual life bar shows the events for one person, while the comparative life chart simultaneously shows the life bars for two people (who need not be related). Neither type of biographical chart will show historical events.

The relationships charts ? pedigree, family group, and direct descendant ? take the traditional charts that family historians are accustomed to and show them in a timeline format. These types of charts allow the insertion of historical events.

Genelines is very flexible in allowing users to change formats and colors. Individuals can be moved around on the chart, if desired. This should be done judiciously however, as it could confuse relationships.

Although genealogists have wholeheartedly embraced software for the creation of ancestor charts and family group sheets, the other types of reports available, including timelines, should be explored. Timelines can give a whole new look to data, making it possible for researchers to develop new strategies for researching their ancestors.


Bryan L. Mulcahy
Reference Librarian
Fort Myers-Lee County Library
2050 Central Avenue
Fort Myers, FL  33901-3917
Tel: (239) 479-4651
Fax: (239) 479-4634

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