Monday, June 04, 2007

Timeline Search by Google

Ever since I saw Google's new timeline search in its experimental labs, I thought genealogy would be the perfect application for its use.

The timeline search is available to use now even though Google says it is not quite ready for primetime. To see how the timeline works, use the command thomas jefferson view:timeline and get the results Thomas Jefferson .

But I wondered how it would work for genealogy.

Usually when I do a genealogy time line, it is because I want to display my family history against a setting of historical milestones. Many genealogy programs such as Family Tree Maker will already do timelines for broad world events such as World War I or World War II.

But I was thinking that perhaps the Google timeline will allow me to put the life of my ancestor in a context of more personal historical milestones, such as his regiment in the Civil War, the company he worked for, or the town he lived in.

I started with an ancestor's regiment in the Civil War using this command
48th regiment pennsylvania civil war view:timeline

and got a timeline of the company's activities pulled from various websites. This timeline gives a good visualization of the regiment during the Civil War.

I wondered if the Google timeline search could give some historical background to important life events in my ancestors' lifetimes. For example, my Irish great-grandfather moved from Pottsville, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia in the late 1870's to start a new job with Baldwin Locomotive Works. What was going on in both places during these times? Well, a timeline search for
pottsville pennsylvania view:timeline

shows that the 1870's was a time of the Molly Maguires in Pottsville, unions vs. industrialists - a time when some in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a fraternal and peaceful organization of Irishmen, were being accused of being a Molly Maguire who were charged, unjustly some say, of murders, brutal assaults, robberies, arson, and sabotage.

And a time line search for
baldwin locomotive works view:timeline

shows the the 1870's was a time of great growth and expansion for the locomotive company. So, Google timeline has given me historical context for my ancestor's move and makes it visually easy to see why my Irish great-grandfather probably left Pottsville for Philadelphia.

Google timeline works best with searches related to people, companies, events and places. It is interesting to put the life of ancestor in a context of personal historical milestones.

For more Google Search Tips, go to Google Genealogy Search Tips.

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