Timelines for Genealogy

Using Timelines for Genealogy

For our April 21, 2017 Twitter chat, we discussed using timelines for genealogy. After a discussion of why genealogists use them and how to use them, we delved into using them effectively.

Timelines for Genealogy

Why use timelines for genealogy? Well, our Tweeters seemed to agree that timelines are essential for easily seeing the gaps in our ancestors’ life events and movement or immigration patterns. Check out Kassie’s follow-up post from the Twitter chat for the entire transcript.

One question asked was how participants create their timelines. The answers were either Word or Excel, with no one mentioning timeline software. I found that interesting and I decided to delve into the question of software specifically for the purpose of creating timelines. Here’s what I learned.

Genealogy Software that creates timelines or chronologies

Most genealogy software offers basic timeline capability for individuals. This might simplify creating a timeline from scratch by organizing chronological events for you. In fact, sometimes the option is not for a timeline, but for a “chronology.” Some genealogy software also has the ability to integrate or create a timeline for historical events, which can lend context to your ancestor’s life. The programs I found with a timeline or chronology feature are:

Family Historian – creates a basic chronology/timeline of events and notes; no source citations

Family Tree Maker – creates a basic chronology/timeline; when you highlight an event, its sources show on the screen

Legacy – creates a basic chronology/timeline of events and notes; no source citations, but you can integrate Genelines companion software for more features

Reunion for Mac – creates timeline charts; I’m not a Mac user, so I welcome more detail from those who use Reunion

Rootsmagic – creates a basic chronology/timeline of events and notes; no source citations

The Master Genealogist – creates a basic chronology/timeline of events and notes/anecdotes

Rootsmagic - Timelines for Genealogy
Some genealogy software, such as Rootsmagic, has timeline capability.

Timeline software and add-ons/companion software

So what if you would like to create more powerful timelines? What if you would like software that generates more information than a basic chronology of events? I found three items that might be of interest. Two are add-on and one is web-based software.

Family Tree Super Tools – First, I would like to note that this website was last updated March 2007, so I do not know if Family Tree Super Tools is currently compatible with any of the most recent versions of the following software. Because this appears to be an older add-on, it may work for you if you have not upgraded your genealogy software in some time. According to the site, this is an add-on that integrates with:

  • Family Tree Maker
  • Personal Ancestral File (discontinued software)
  • Legacy Family Tree
  • Generations (discontinued software)
  • Family Origins (discontinued/replaced by Rootsmagic)
  • Ultimate Family Tree (discontinued)
  • The Master Genealogist

Genelines – This is probably the add-on I see mentioned most often. It integrates with:

  • Ancestry.com GEDCOM
  • Family Tree Maker 2007 and earlier
  • Personal Ancestral File (discontinued)
  • Legacy Family Tree
  • Ancestral Quest
  • Ancestry Family Tree

Twile – This web-based software allows you to import and/or build your family tree and create a lovely timeline of events complete with photographs. It is free to use and a great option if you would like something visual, whether for research or personal purposes.

Timeglider – This is another web option that might be a more effective way to draft a timeline from scratch, rather than creating one in Word or Excel. For $5 a month or $50 a year (free if you are a student), you can add events and the software creates the timeline for you.

This will not only give you a beautiful visual timeline, but also HTML to embed on your family or genealogy website, if you would like.

Timeglider - Timelines for Genealogy
Timeglider is web-based timeline software.


Those are just a few programs that could get the job done when it comes to creating timelines for genealogy. Have you explored the timeline capability of your genealogy software and used it to help you create timelines to enhance your research? Have you tried add-ons or web-based programs that create timelines? Or do you prefer to write up your timelines from scratch?

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