The best part about living in the present generation is the many resources that enable you t0 revisit the events that touched your ancestor’s lives and reintroduce them to your ancestor’s history.
Timelines are a great avenue to experience and understand past events pertaining to the family:
- If you use family tree software it likely has a timeline report that will list and print a chronological draft of your ancestor’s life events. Go ahead and print out this list to see what you have and what you can incorporate.
- Use a word processor program such as Microsoft Word or Open Office Writer to build your timeline manually.
- Index cards can also be used as a guide. Place the name, birth & death date on the top of the card then add bullet style notations of a list or single event, a summary of the event, and notations so you can incorporate your source citations.
To add to the above timeline, you’ll want to visit sites such as those below that mark events your ancestor likely was aware.
- This Day In History on History.com has many national headlines and events that occurred on a specific date. Just put a date or year into the search box.
- Any-Day-in-History has a simple list of event dates, historical figure birthdates, and other date information that may be useful according to the date you search.
- On-This-Day.com is another simple site for nationwide and historical figure information. Just type a date into the google search bar and a list of possible dates will be shown. (More historical figures: Historyorb.com and
- dMarie Time Capsule is a site that gives you some headlines, pricing of items such as gas and bread, and other information such as popular books of the date you specify.
- Today in History by The Library of Congress is very useful.
- Digitized newspapers are especially helpful in targeting specific dates. Ancestry.com and GenealogyBank are just two of several online database sites that offer a searchable collection of newspapers across the country. Both require a subscription to access the full image that may be accessible at a nearby library. (The New York Times’s “On This Day” and Washington Post’s “Today in History” print online articles for specific events for a given day .)
- Then there’s the tried and true, visit the nearest library or archive for the newspapers on microfilm. You will find events closely related to your ancestor’s community and hopefully specifically regarding him as well. It will take some time and patience to roll through the microfilm roll and well worth the effort. But with growing interest in digitization, your nearest library may have digital microfilm readers that will save the images you locate directly to a thumbdrive. But if you still are required to print, just scan the document and save it into your family tree database.
Here’s to leaf’n through the newspaper!