Do you have ancestors with surnames that have about a billion spelling variations? How about those family members whose birth year never seems to match from one source to the other? Well, I have both, and I suspect that we all do!
I have been experimenting around with several different forms that I could use to help keep track of the surname spellings and the differing birth years. I wanted one that was easy to use and easily read when filled in. I also wanted one that could serve as a timeline of a person's life.
Here is the timeline I created today. Take a look at it and if you would like to have it, just leave me a comment or send me an email with your email address and I'll send the file to you. I created it on my Mac, but I am able to send it as a Microsoft document file.
On this form, I record only those events for which I have a document. The only "assumptions" that I make are the calculated birth years such as those in census data. This allows me to see at a glance the approximate birth year and helps to eliminate any person who just happens to have the same name and location of my ancestor. I also record the information exactly as it is found on my source documents.
I do not see this form being used for each person I am researching, but for those who are difficult to track due to spellings of names, various ages, or birth years that are reported, I think this will be a huge help.
I have the lines separated into decades so that the form can be used for any person no matter when he or she was born. I might find that I need more dotted lines in the decade spaces, but those can easily be added.
Here is the form filled out using my husband's 3-greats grandfather, Moses Dailey. The Dailey family lived in Fleming and Bath Counties, Kentucky. I have found their surname spelled about a half dozen different ways and the families seemed to use the same names for their children over and over again. I also kept coming across discrepancies in their ages and birth years. It was this branch of the family tree that showed me the need for something that I could use to help determine which Dailey I was working on.
As you can see, most of the sources I have for Moses, indicate his birth year between 1832 and 1834. His death certificate states his birth year as 1829. Before I used this form, I might have missed the fact that this date is probably not accurate even though it was his great - grandson, Lee Hay, who was the informant. Also, without any birth record for people born in the early 1800's, how many times do we tend to, even though we know better, automatically use the death certificate as the birth source? You can also see the various ways that Dailey, and even Moses, was spelled in the records. This will help me not miss any records as I am searching the family due to spelling variations. It also helps me see which facts I am missing for Moses.
There might be other timeline or record keeping forms available, but, for now, I think this might serve my purpose. If you think it might serve yours, just let me know. I am happy to share!