2020 Donald R. Snow
Page last updated 2020-04-15.
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ABSTRACT:  A timeline is a chronological list of events with their dates so you see what happened in context.  The website
http://ourtimelines.com/index.shtml is a free website that allows you to enter beginning and ending years and see the major world events during that time period.  See an example here. These are colorful bar charts to indicate the length of the events during that overall time period.  The website allows you to enter up to 10 personal events, so those are included in order.  The charts can be saved for genealogy or other programs and use in presentations.  Since you see the person's life in context of world events, you may see other types of records to look for, e.g. military records, natural disasters, inventions, etc.   The notes for this class and related articles, all with active Internet links, are on Don's website  https://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html .


  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( snowd@math.byu.edu ) of Provo and St. George, Utah.
  2. These notes, with active Internet links and other related articles, are posted on Don's website  https://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html .
  3. Tips:  (1)  Easy to put an icon on your desktop for the URL for these notes; just drag the icon in front of the address in your browser to your desktop.  (2)  To open a link from here in another tab, but keep your place in these notes, hold down the Control key while clicking the link.
  4. This class will discuss the frree wesbsite http://ourtimelines.com/index.shtml which shows lives in context of what was happening during that time period.
  5. There is a Freeware Corner article about this website on my webpage at  https://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-freewarecorner-2015-01-ourtimelinescom.html

  7. A timeline is a chronological list of events, with their dates, during a person's life, for example.
  8. Example -- timeline of my Grandmother Ann Stafford Snow Condie posted on my website -- https://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/StaffordAnn(Snow)(Condie)(1867-1948)-TIMELINE-WithPersonalData-GeneratedFromOurtimelines-com--2020-04-01.html  
  9. Timelnes show an overview of a life in context and, if it shows world events then, you see the life in contgext get ideas of things to look at further -- examples
    1. If you see children born in the wrong order or large gaps between children born, there may be others to look for
    2. If the person was of military age when a war was going on, you may need to look for military records.
    3. Natural disasters that occurred during the person's life, such as floods, major storms, earthquakes, or epidemics (Coronavirus COVID-19!), there may be newspaper or other accounts to check.
  10. Some genealogy programs generate timelines for the dates of events you have entered and some even include world-wide events 
  11. The ourtimelines.com website will generate the event list for you and allow you to enter some information about the person to show in the timeline 
  12. The resulting charts can be saved so you can use them in your genealogy or other programs.

  14. Website -- http://ourtimelines.com/index.shtml -- free website; read some of the info and when ready to try it, click TIMELINE (upper left side)
  15. You enter name, birth and death (or current) year 
  16. Example -- type in your own name and birth year and current year and click Generate Timeline
  17. You get a brightly-colored bar-chart timeline of world events turing that period that shows
    1. Events from birth year to ending year
    2. Colored bars show the length of time that event lasted
    3. Colors represent different types of events (see color code list below)
    4. Underlined events are links for more info about that event  \
    5. Person's age is at end of event line 
  18. The color coding of events in the timelines generated is as follows.
    1. Light blue -- Historical Event
    2. Pink -- Leadership and Political
    3. White -- Technology Event
    4. Red -- Disaster, Wars, Plagues, etc.
    5. Yellow -- Personal Historical Event
    6. Orange -- Personal Disaster - Death of Loved One, Illness, etc.
  19. To save the chart, see below 
  20. Earliest year you can enter seems to be 1000 AD; latest date is right now and they have already included the Coronavirus COVID-19 World-Wide Pandemic

  22. Can enter up to 10 personal events
  23. When adding personal events, be sure to check the Personal Event box at the end of the line, so they are shown in yellow. 
  24. For personal events such as birth, marriage, and children, I find that entering a birth year and a death year shows the bar that is the length of the life and makes it easier to understand; otherwise these show up as slim vertical lines in the chart: see exmples in my Grandmother's chart (Link near top of these notes)
  25. If you know enough about html, you can enter more than 10 personal events and you can even include links like in some of the world events, so you can add more info
  26. To get around the 10-personal-event limit you could set up a series of timelines with one for birth to marriage, one for marriage to retirement, one for retirement to death, etc.  Or you could do separate timelines for education, marriage and family, work, etc., but then the events wouldn't all be in one timeline.

  28. Checking the box labelled Printable in front of the Generate Timeline makes it form a black and white chart, not the beautiful color chart, but printing tht takes a lot less printer ink
  29. Either the color or B/W charts can be printed by right-clicking anywhere on the chart  and printing to your printer or Print to Microsoft PDF 
  30. The chart can also be saved by using a scrolling window screen capture program like FASTSTONE CAPTURE; it works best to save it as a PDF so you see it just like it was originally; the underlined links probably won't work in these PDFs; the program FASTSTONE CAPTURE is discussed in other notes and article on my website 
  31. You can also right-click anywhere on the chart and save it as an html file, so when you click on it, it opens your browser and looks just like it did online and then all links work
  32. My file-naming system for such files is
    1. With this name the file shows up in lists of files related to me in the freeware program EVERYTHING which is discussed in other notes and articles on my website. 
    2. This naming system forms an interactive timeline of my life and these files for TIMELINE, HISTORY, etc., are all together at the end of the list 
    3. More details of my naming system are on my webpage.


  33. If you use a chart in a book or elsewhere, you should include a courtesy note on it, so people can see where it was generated; the FAQs on the webpage have a suggested note to include  
  34. These PDF timelines can be uploaded and attached to people in FamilySearch Family Tree.
  35. Timelines with world events give you an overview of a person's life in context of what was happening then and the timeline of a historical figure you are studying will show things that influenced their life and career.
  36. Clues for more records to search about the person
    1. Large gaps between ages of children - check for more children
    2. Military age during a war in that country - check for military records
    3. Natural disasters, e.g. floods, major storms, epidemics (Coronavirus COVID-19) - check for medical records or newspaper accounts
    4. State entering the United States then - check for land or other type records 
  37. Things to think about when you see the timelines 
    1. Transportation was by horse and buggy before the railroad and automobiles
    2. Standard time and time zones weren't set up until the transcontinental raillroad was completed in 1869, so before that each town had it's own time
    3.  Before the electric light bulb they read by candles and lanterns
    4. There was no way to record sound before wax cylinders and phonograph records; young people today may not know what "sounding like a broken record" means
    5. We used carbon paper and typewriters before xerox machines and computers; that's where Cc: and Carriage Return come from
    6. You get the point about what our ancestors lived with and timelines help show it   


  38. For people born near the end of the year, e.g. Joseph Smith, born 23 Dec 1805, you have to enter his birth as 1806 so the First Vision in 1820 shows his age as 14; that is, if you put his birth year as 1805 and his First Vision in 1820, it says it occurred when he was 15, not 14 -- The problem seems to be the day in the year that Ourtimelines.com uses to consider the age
  39. Other items on the website
    1. Peers and Contempories -- see who was born in the same year; helps put your ancestor in perscpective; I was surprised at the list of people born in 1867, the same year as my Grandmother. 
    2. Birthdays -- see who else has a birthday on that month and day
    3. FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions -- lots of helpful informtion about the website here


  40. There are many reasons to use this free website and it's fun to experiment with.
  41. You'll probably find it very useful in your family history for your own and your ancestors's lives.

  42. Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don's Class Listings Page .