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Family history forms – a timeline for each name

Use these family history forms to create
biographical outlines of ancestors

Biographical timeline forms

Good family history forms should help you to delve beyond the birth, marriage and death dates of each of your ancestors. You can get a real feel for their time on earth by recording their personal milestones in chronological order on a biographical outline form.

The family history forms that you can download above are my favourite way of recording genealogical details because I can see the life of one of my forebears unfold with each new snippet of information added. In effect, they are a timeline for each name on my family tree.

Although I normally use pen or ballpoint when completing genealogy forms, I prefer pencil when I'm filling in a biographical outline.

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The reason is that until I know all the documented events experienced by one of my ancestors, I can't usually be sure of the order in which they occurred. So, I use pencil (and plenty of eraser!) and rearrange the facts into the correct order as I establish them.

Crucially, there is space on the right hand side of the form in which to note the source of each new piece of information.

This is so important, because if you want to check your notes at a later date, or review them in light of some additional data, you need to know where the original information about your ancestor's life originated.

When I am satisfied I have more or less exhausted all available genealogy and other sources and am unlikely to discover more about a particular individual, I grab myself a fresh form and complete it in ink.

Very gratifying!

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Genealogy Top Tip

Assume Nothing!

It's so easy to make assumptions when carrying out genealogy research. It seems natural to believe that something stated as fact is, in fact, fact.

But just because a gravestone says Gt Aunt Nellie was born in 1852 doesn't mean she really was born at that time.

Just because you spell your surname one way doesn't mean it's always been spelt that way.

Just because a man and a woman living in the same household claimed to be husband and wife on a census form doesn't mean they were legally married.

Of course, it's perfectly possible that Gt Aunt Nellie really was born in 1852, and it's perfectly likely that all your ancestors were married when they said they were, but people have always told fibs and – even more frequently – people have made mistakes.

Let's take good old Gt Aunt Nellie as an example. If she was born in the middle of the 19th century, she arrived on earth at a time when age and birthdays really didn't matter very much.

She may have had only a hazy idea of when she was born. She may also, for the sake of vanity, have lopped a few years off her likely age when she married or completed a census declaration.

When she eventually died, any surviving spouse or children may have had only a rough idea of her age and although they may have instructed the lettercutter to the best of their knowledge, the information supplied on her gravestone could well be wrong.

If you assume the information to be correct, and rely on it in your research, you are leaving a false trail for others.

Always make sure you can corroborate your research. Record your sources when completing family history forms and follow the documentary evidence.

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By Claire Santry, Copyright© 2008-2016 Dedicated to helping YOU discover your Irish Heritage.
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