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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Using Timelines to Understand Your Ancestor's Lives

My great grandfather, Fred Schwemm, was the oldest surviving son of Joseph and Julia Schwemm. When I first started my research I gathered up information on Fred, his parents, his grandparents George and Sophie Schwemm and his six siblings who survived to adulthood.

During this quest I found the guardianship papers that were drawn up when Joseph and Julia died leaving six minor children. I found marriage records for Fred and his siblings, the birth announcements for their children and eventually obituary and death records for all of them.

What I did not do until I talked to Ruth Schwemm Hardacre, my grandmother's first cousin, was look at all my 'research' as the story of Fred's life. When Ruth made the statement that Fred had 'stole' the farm from his siblings I knew I had to stop and understand Fred's life from his perspective. To do this, I put together a timeline so I could see the sequence of events.

Sometimes in our search for every record and every name we can forget to step back and put our ancestors lives in context to the time period they lived. Timelines can be an extremely helpful tool to do this.

Setting up a timeline is easy - find the first date you have, such as the birth date of an ancestor and then the date that ancestor died. From there start filling in significant family, state and regional events. It may also be helpful to check out an almanac or local newspaper.

If you need a resource for finding a timeline for a particular state check out e-Reference Desk @ or just click on the title of this article.

And, in case you are interested, Fred did not steal the farm from anyone but that is another blog posting!

Take Care,
Everyday Genealogy Desk Calendar

The first picture is of Fred and Emma Rethmeier Schwemm my maternal great grandparents. The second picture is of my grandmother Florence and her sister-in-law Anna Pahlke.

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