This morning, genealogist Lisa Talbot Lisson presented a Facebook Live talk about using timelines. She had some great points about this helpful tool and inspired me to blog about timelines today.
Timelines have been helpful in my research over the years. For instance I could not find my great-great grandparents, James and Jane Ahern on the 1870 census. I had an idea that they were either in San Francisco or Sonoma County, but no amount of searching would turn them up. But then I created a timeline and noticed that they had daughters baptized at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in Petaluma, Sonoma County in 1869 and 1871. The timeline showed me quite clearly I should definitely be looking for them in the Petaluma area in 1870.
Armed with this new insight, I did a search for every man named James who was born in Ireland sometime between 1825 and 1835 and lived in Sonoma County. I probably had 50 men or so who fit this broad description, and as I scrolled through the list, I could easily eliminate some just by the surname – Biggins and Craddock were not likely misrepresentations of the surname I sought. But once I got down to the H’s, there I found James Hern, exactly the man I was looking for! His naturalization records, voter registrations and other documents refer to him as “Ahern” but I suppose the census enumerator just misheard the name and called him Hern. And Jane? She’s Mary J on the census.
Timelines can help with research in so many ways. James and Jane Ahern didn’t were hiding from me in 1870, but once I narrowed down their hiding places with a timeline, I didn’t have to look too long to find them. Try making a timeline of your ancestor’s life. It might help you to find some missing records.
I’ll be presenting “Using Timelines to Understand Your Ancestors” at the Kelowna and District’s Harvest Your Family Tree Conference, September 23-25, 2016. If you’d like to learn more about timelines and how they can help in your research, come join me!
 Ahern, Sarah A, baptismal record, 22 May 1869, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Petaluma, Sonoma, California. Photocopy of page from unidentified register.
Ahern, J.I,, baptismal record 20 Oct 1871, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Petaluma, Sonoma, California. Photocopy of page 128 from unidentified register. Note: Additional writing in margin which appear to have been written later in a different pen and by a different person indicates “John” but John Cornelius Ahern was born in 1873, and Jane Isabella/Isabel “Belle” Ahern was born in 1871. It is my opinion the notation of "John" in the register is incorrect.
 Hern, James, 1870 U.S. Census population schedule, Year: 1870; Census Place: Vallejo, Sonoma, California; Roll: M593_91; Page: 456A; Image: 87186; Family History Library Film: 545590
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.