Genealogy

Timelines: The Unsung Hero of Genealogy

An important tool for genealogy research is a timeline. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, as long as it helps you on your family history journey.

The timeline allows you to put your family member’s life events that you are aware of in chronological order. These events include:

  • Birth
  • Marriage(s)
  • Death
  • Birth of Children
  • Death of Children
  • Death of Parents
  • Census Location
  • Historical Events: National, State, Local

Once you have all of your events listed, you will see how they migrated, or even stayed in the same area, or if you are missing information all together over a period of time, you can determine what records you need to fill in the gaps. But most importantly, a timeline can help you get to know your ancestor in a way you hadn’t before.

Types of Timelines

There are primarily 3 different ways you can create a timeline for your genealogy. Timelines can be found in genealogy software, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, you can draw them by hand or you can create in a spreadsheet. Below I will go into detail of all of these.

Genealogy Software Programs

If you use a genealogy software program to keep track of your ancestors, you probably already have a timeline or chronology section for this purpose. I use Legacy Family Tree and here is a timeline for my great-great-grandmother, Mazie Warner.

You can see her age in the left hand column and you may find a gap of where additional information is needed. This is is not a complete picture, it’s what would fit on my screen so you can still read it.

Online trees such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org offer timelines too. On Ancestry it is easy to miss as it’s the “Facts” view on a person’s information page.

My Ancestry page on my great-great-grandmother, Mazie Lorenia Warner. You can see how the years are off to the left going down in a timeline form.

To access the timeline for a person on FamilySearch.org you just need to highlight the second option (to the right of “Details”) to show the chronology of your person’s life. If nothing else this exercise has brought to my attention that I do not have the 1880 census as a source for Mazie on FamilySearch.

Draw a Timeline By Hand

Sometimes simple is best and the easiest way is to draw a timeline by hand. For many this is a great way because by writing out the documents you have in chronological order, you see how their life progressed. I feel using colored pencils may nice to use because you could have selected Green for all birth dates, Red for all Death Dates, etc.

My attempt at a hand-drawn timeline.

Using a Spreadsheet

I discovered a YouTube video done by Anne Mitchell for Ancestry.com on how to create a simple timeline using a spreadsheet that included a column devoted to “Thought’s and Comments” which was a space that included your analysis of the timeline, and where you could add the types of records that you needed to look up for any gap you may have found. This type of timeline can be used with a Spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets, or by creating a table in Word or Google Docs.

Creating Timelines to Better Understand Records and Families – by Anne Mitchell via Ancestry.com was a YouTube video I watched that instructed me on this homemade table/spreadsheet

I found this to be extremely helpful when working on my family members. By typing out what I had and knew it allowed me to not only really look at each document closely, but pointed out what documents I still needed to find.

Original Research

What do I mean by “original research”? It’s the research you do when you are looking for something specific that you don’t have. Something not handed to you in the form of a hint on a database program (such as Ancestry.com’s leaf hints or the “Research Help” suggestions on FamilySearch.org).

By creating a timeline of your ancestors you can then move onto original research as you find the missing documents to fill in the gaps that you find. For example, I only have a date of my great-great-grandparents marriage from a Marriage Index I found but I do not have the actual marriage license confirming the date of 2 January 1894. I need to go in search of this record that took place in Wellsville, Allegany, New York.

As you continue to see what information you are missing for your person, think about what records you need to find. For example if you find that your people are moving around, try to find them in city directories, or look through land records to see if you are able to find where your ancestor was either the seller of their old property or a buyer for their new (they should be listed on both). If your person fought in a war look to see if maybe they had any land warrants for serving.

Also remember that not all records are found online. There is that chance you may have to research in person for the records that you seek. Sometimes you will be fortunate to contact someone in the records/archives where you people lived and will have time to look for you (though a price may be involved).

I hope you enjoyed learning about the different ways that you can create timelines for your research and I hope you begin to implement them in your family history journey.

My Family Tree

My Gustin Family – Orienta A. Gustin

When I got up this morning and picked up my phone, FamilySearch had reminded me that today, September 6, is the birthday of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Orienta A. Gustin, and I thought, what a better day to learn more about her than her birthday?

Orienta A. Gustin was born on 6 September 1851 in Scio, New York, a town in Allegany County to Benjamin Gustin and Nancy Return Gault. Benjamin was a farmer and between 1865 and 1870 they had moved to Pennsylvania, where Orienta met and married Winfield Scott Warner, a farmer and Civil War veteran in 1869.

Orienta and Winfield settled in Sharon Township. In 1877 their oldest daughter, Mazie Lorenia was born, followed by Cymanthia Lencretia in 1881, Jeanette in 1887 and Catherine “Cassie” Belle in 1890. In 1899 Winfield died, leaving Orienta to finish raising her 2 youngest daughters solo.

Orienta Gustin Warner

Having an uncommon name like Orienta I have found an article or two in the newspapers. Below is one of my favorites about Orienta and her daughter, Jeanette (aka Nettie).

The Potter Enterprise, Thursday, February 11, 1904

As far as I can tell though, Orienta did her best to take care of her children. In 1918 when Jeanette’s husband, Thomas Bergan, fell on hard times and passed away, Orienta moved in with her to help her and get her and get her on her feet.

In 1922 when Cymanthia came down with cancer living in California, it was Orienta who travelled across the country to first care for her daughter and assist with her grandson’s. Orienta eventually moved to Akron, Ohio where Mazie and Jeanette both lived.

Orienta Gustin Warner with who I believe are her grandchildren Harold Stone, Margaret Wagner & Leila Wagner circa 1919

Orienta Gustin Warner passed away on December 23, 1928 at the home of her daughter, Mazie, in Akron, Ohio. She passed away from Brights Disease, which is Nephritis of the Kidneys, and Myocarditis. She was 77 years old. She was buried in Sharon Center Cemetery in Potter County with her husband.

When I see these photos of Orienta, she appears to be a no-nonsense woman who loves her family. I am so grateful to be descended from such strong women, as her daughter Mazie, my 2nd-great-grandmother was the same way.

My Family Tree

My Warner Family – Mazie

As most of the world is resigned to stay home and be in isolation, I finally have found my genealogy groove. And though I normally try to partake in Amy Johnson Crow’s fabulous challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks, I find myself struggling with the recent week’s prompts.  So I think I’ll focus on a specific surname in my family, and I’ve chosen the Warner’s (I suddenly have the Animaniac’s theme going through my head, if you have never watched this outstanding cartoon brought to us by Steven Spielberg you really should, I discovered it in college and it is one of the greatest animated shows ever, if I do say so myself). I figure this can be the first of many tributes to my Warner clan and could possibly get me to find out more about them.

Mazie Lorenia Warner

The last of my line of Warner’s was my great-great-grandmother Mazie Lorenia Warner.  I know I’ve spoken of Mazie before because she is one of my favorite relatives on my mother’s side of the family.  She was born on 21 July 1877 to Winfield Warner and his wife, Orienta Gustin in Potter County, Pennsylvania. She had 3-sisters: Cymanthia Lencretia, Jeanette, and Catherine “Cassie” Belle.

MazieWarnerSig
Mazie Lorenia Warner – no idea when this was taken (another project!)

Mazie was one of my first successfully solved puzzles.  Just getting her name correct was one of my first obstacles as every document I found seemed to be something different – Mazie, Magie, Daysa (still trying to figure that last one out), but then my mom clarified it all for me (she was going off memory as Mazie passed away 2 years before my mom was born).

Mazie married my great-great-grandfather, Arthur James Dunbar on 2 Jan 1894.  To this marriage came 4-children with the 3-girls surviving: Myrtle Iona, Merle Winfield (he passed away at 8 months), Ina Mae and Mildred Laura (she is my great-grandmother).

On 18 Dec 1912 Arthur died of polio (adult onset).  A few years later Mazie married a second time to Samuel Randol, in 1916 they moved to Ohio and this is how this portion of my family settled in Akron. Oddly enough the area of Akron where they settled is not far at all from where I live with my own family.

Mazie and Samuel had a son, Richard LeHoty, but he passed away when he was 5-months old.

Because my library (Akron Summit County Public Library) has digitized the local city directories, I have been able to follow where Mazie and Samuel lived from 1916 until Mazie passed away in 1945.  Mazie has come across as a loving soul, always taking her daughters in when their marriages failed (or at least that is how I assume her to be as my own great-grandmother returned home more than once and Mazie even let her and her third husband live with them for a bit when they first got married while I assume they saved up for a house – I have nothing to confirm these stories because my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have all passed).

At one point in time Samuel and Mazie ran a store on Howard Street, and I believe it was called SJ Randol’s according to the 1924 city directory, and back in the 1920’s Howard Street was the place to be.  According to a lady my parents’ were guardian’s of, Clara Mueller, she claimed that you could find things at the shops on Howard Street that you couldn’t find anywhere else.

SJRandol Store
SJ Randol Store, circa 1924

Samuel passed away on 16 Oct 1938 in Decatur, Illinois. He was a truck driver and wasn’t feeling well and passed away after he had been “ill for a week over a complication of diseases” according to the 17 Oct 1938 edition of the Decatur Herald.  This made me sad to learn of Samuel’s death. The 1937 City Directory is the first where my great-grandmother, her husband and my grandmother finally moved into their own home, which gave Mazie and Samuel basically 1-2 years to finally enjoy life together.

Mazie continued to live alone until 1943 where she moved in to her old house which is where her daughter, Ina lived with her second husband, Ralph, and her daughter, Almeda. She passed away there on 19 May 1945.

080-MazieWarnerRandol-BobBergen-ThelmaBessieBergan
Mazie and her nephew, Bob Bergan, and his wife, Thelma Bessie circa 1942.

I drive down Howard Street every day when I go to and from work and I look to the spot where the store stood that Mazie and Samuel ran.  I look to the abandoned lot with just a very slight portion of a brick wall standing that would most likely been the back of their store, and wonder what it would have been like to know her, if she ever looks down on me and is happy to know that I am making sure my family doesn’t forget her and her legacy.

Genealogy, My Family Tree

A Wonderful Surprise

A week or so ago I decided my living room had had enough and I needed to move the last of my stuff up into the attic where I planned on storing my genealogy research. Once there I decided to go through one of the boxes I’d found a few weeks before because I was surprised to find my sisters and my school photos.

But as I looked at the photos of my sister and me as we each wore the same dress in different grades with even the same barrette in our hair, it was what was underneath that made me even happier.

It all goes back to when I began doing my genealogy a couple of years ago, one of my first initial puzzles was my great-great-grandmother Mazie Lorenia Warner.  I had such a difficult time finding her in the census and things because you would be surprised how messed up the name Mazie can be in “official” documents.  Magie in one, which is at least close, Daysa in another, because that makes sense.  As I found more and more out about her the more I began creating a personality for her, as she seems like a wonderful and caring woman, especially in regard to her children.  She was always letting her children move back home when relationships didn’t work out or finding a new home for herself to let her children have the existing home to help them get started on their own.  I discovered this trend as I saved City Directory after City Directory.

The one thing all the documents didn’t provide was what Mazie looked like.

But then going through this box of photos I stumbled across pictures that must have belonged to my great grandmother.  I found a photo of Mazie and I was so incredibly happy. I literally had tears of joy, immediately calling my husband because I was so thrilled.

MazieWarnerSig

Next up is making sure I find the right products to store such treasures.  Along with the photo of Mazie was one of her mother, Orienta Gustine Warner (this had me thinking as my grandmother had it titled “Great Grandmother Warner” – it made me think Mazie because I am so used to associating maiden names with my female ancestors, and then I realized who she really meant).

OrientaGustineWarnerSig

Now I’m curious as to what other great finds are awaiting me in my boxes of photos. The ones in the header of my blog here are my relatives – the baby is my great-grandfather who was born in 1873 while the group shot is my 2 paternal great grandmothers, my beloved Grandma Blair, and my grandfather, affectionately called Pappy (he passed when I was 2).  Those 2 photos I found in a box of pictures from my Grandma Blair, and I know her niece may have an adult photo of my her dad (the baby).

I hope you are lucky enough to have such wonderful finds in your own family history quest. If you have been fortunate please share in the comments below.