Use a genealogy database with a timeline feature to discover more ancestral stories.

Discover More Using Databases and Timelines

If you’re not using a modern database program, you’re missing out on a powerful tool. I use RootsMagic as my database of choice. RootsMagic has an awesome timeline tool.

Not only does this timeline show the life events of marriage, birth, death, and residence for my ancestors. RootsMagic also pulls in life events from immediate family members onto the timeline for the specific individual you are reviewing. As such, you can see more events for relatives and learn some important lessons.

My second great-grandmother Evaline Townley was born 22 October 1859. She died 25 November 1939 at the age of 80. She married William Talbot Peak on 1 July 1892 at the age of 32. She was from Cincinnati, Ohio and was married in the same town. She died in Columbus, Ohio. I have found every census record she would have appeared in. All of these facts make a simple timeline on Evaline.

However, RootsMagic’s powerful timeline includes the birth of her siblings and the death of her mother on the timeline. In 1881, Evaline appears in the Cincinnati City Directory for the second time. The first was in 1875 and she was listed as a student. This time she has no occupation listed, which was the case in the 1880 US Census. With the 1890 US Census destroyed, Evaline doesn’t make an appearance in historical records until the age of 32 when she married in 1892. So what was she doing during those 11 years?

Finally, a light dawned!

What Evaline is doing can be easily speculated. Her mother Anna Townley died on 24 June 1881 three days after delivering a baby that died of a hemorrhage. The cause of Anna’s death is considered to be attributed to the confinement incurred after the death of the unnamed child. At the time of Anna’s death, her father Richard was 44 years-old. Evaline was 21. Her brothers William, John, and Harry were 17, 11, and 3. It’s safe to reason that Evaline now took on the domestic duties that her mother left.

RootsMagic Timeline
Click to enlarge screenshot from RootsMagic Timeline
The red box highlights the death of her mother and her own marriage

William, at age 17, was already studying in the profession of his father and working as a brick mason. He apparently worked with his father throughout the 1880s. They had their own brick masonry services business called Richard Townley & Son. By 1888, John was working with his father and older brother. The father and sons worked together until at least 1895. With her father and brothers providing the family income, Evaline could focus on caring for the home and tending to the needs of Harry.

Evaline Townley, at age 32, was able to start her own family when she married William Peak on 1 Jul 1892. She became pregnant right away with her daughter Evaline who was born 13 April 1893. Since William and Evaline moved to his hometown of Bellevue, Kentucky, Evaline’s father and brothers were left on their own. Her brothers were now 28, 22, and 14.

The youngest brother, Harry, did not seem to take up the bricklaying profession. Instead, he was studious and was allowed to focus on his education. He eventually would earn a doctorate’s degree and become the US Inspector for the Bureau of Animal Industry at the Cincinnati Union Stock Yards. Evaline was fond of her younger brother whom she helped raise.

Do you notice the history I was able to understand?

All of this information was pulled together because I was able to review Evaline’s RootsMagic timeline interspersed with some of the key events of her father and siblings lives.

It’s safe to say that someone needed to care for Harry. One could speculate that the burden would fall upon Evaline. Further support for this speculation is that Evaline would name one of her children after her younger brother, presumably the one she helped raise. Additionally, other family resources indicate her great fondness for her brother Harry.

Looking at the timelines that included family life events helped me discover why the strong connection must exist. I could not have easily made this connection without the help of the timelines in RootsMagic.

Use a genealogy software, like RootsMagic, with a timeline feature to discover more ancestral stories.#familytree #genealogyresearch #ancestry
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Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.


  • Renee Zamora

    Great article. The timeline was so helpful for me to understand events in my grandmother's life when I was writing a biographical sketch on her.

    I notice that the baby died before it was born on your timeline. Since the events are on the same day you need to change the Sort Date to get it to appear correctly. The dates will automatically be 21 Jun 1881, use a -1 or -2 after the date to have them sort correctly. So for the birth in the Sort Date field near the Save button use the date 21 Jun 1881-1. The Death Sort Date would be 21 Jun 1881-2.

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