An historical timeline can be an important aid to family history. Ancestors are more than just names on paper; they are real people who lived in a different time. Yet few ancestors left daily journals or records of their activities and the events with which they were associated. Their stories should be reconstructed as accurately as possible through the use of authoritative sources and historical accounts of the time. The use of the timeline will show visually events surrounding an ancestor’s life in his time period and geographic area, in essence, the timeline is a pictorial summary of a person’s life in the context of historical events.
Gathering the Information
There are many historical sources which contain listings of major events in geographic areas. Encyclopedias, almanacs, outlines, and social science textbooks are but a few examples. The writer became familiar with these sources when her son became uninterested in his history class and was asked to bring his history book home.
After gleaning several historical events in Colonial American history, we proceeded to the computer to draw a timeline of an ancestor’s life. The timeline was completed and drawn in a matter of 20 minutes. The young boy was amazed to discover that he had an ancestor older than George Washington, and that Benjamin Franklin was older than George Washington. Then came the profound realization that his ancestor was in America over 130 years before the Revolutionary War. The student suddenly took an interest in American history.
Creating a Timeline
Genealogists who have the Apple II series, IBM and compatibles, or Macintosh computer systems with a mouse may created a timeline with ease and confidence. After the information for the timeline has been gathered, it is simply a matter of using the graphic software to draw the lines.
Apple II systems use software called Dazzle Draw, IBM and compatibles use PC Paintbrush, and MacIntosh systems may use MacDraw or MacPaint software programs. The bold horizontal timeline is made with one stroke. Then each vertical line, smaller and not as bold, is created singly. A box at, the end of each vertical line is drawn, and the historical data is typed into the box before the next vertical line is drawn.
Applying the Timeline to Genealogy
In producing the Posey family history (Descendants of Francis Posey  Through His Son, Benjamin Posey ), five timelines were created, one for each patriarch of the five major Posey family branches. Posey descendants who see this timeline can readily identify their ancestors and recognize events from their academic studies. These graphic displays have been well received not only by Posey family members but many genealogists have used them as models for similar representations for their own families.
Following are examples of historical timelines. The minimal effort required to design these charts, originally to interest a young student in history, has been rewarding also in uniting generations of a family. This genealogical computer application can likewise make a difference in countless families in perpetuating family heritage with a renewed legacy. The correlation between family heritage and national historical events is an important one for the genealogist and the history student.
Readers with questions about this computer application may write or call Posey International, P. O. Box 338, Orem. UT 84057, 801-377-5504.