Auto-Creation of Timeline Files

The following article applies to TMG v5.x, v6.x and v7.x. 
A version for TMG v4.x and earlier is located here.

Creating a Timeline File

A timeline can be instrumental in helping your genealogy research. TMG allows you to create new timeline files as you wish using your own data. However, you must create the file and enter each timeline date and event one at a time. This may be alright for information such as county and state formations; but for data that you have already entered in your dataset, you hate to enter it through your keyboard all over again.

Take heart, a custom timeline can be created from your own dataset and used to see who else in your ancestry (both direct and indirect) was doing what at the same time. The custom timeline can be as simple or as complex and can include or exclude as much or as little as you wish. Naturally, the more you include in the timeline, the more work it will involve. On the other hand, it may provide that extra research tool that may help you find that elusive piece of information you need.

There are three major parts to the procedure. The first part requires the creation of a List of Events (LOE) file based on the criteria you select from TMG.  Part two allows you to re-arrange the report file in preparation for creating the database file. Part three creates the actual timeline file. 

1. Generating the List of Events (LOE) report is the easiest part. You may already have done many this times; but with output going to your printer and/or in a different sequence. I wanted a timeline of all Hoffman births, so I created one this way:

2. After the file has been generated, it must be converted to the proper format for use as a Timeline. So open the file produced above in Microsoft Excel.

The input to your database manager will need to be a file with four "columns" of data:
        Data                    Data           Data      Decimal
     Column    Data     Type           Length    Places
        ----     --------   -------       -------   ---------
        1.          Year     Numeric           4              0
        2.          Month  Numeric           2              0
        3.          Day      Numeric           2              0
        4.          Event   Character      160              -
The data length in column four should be adjusted to the length of the longest amount of data in the event field that you will have.

Below are some sample data lines as they might appear in the LOE file (with quote marks shown to simulate spreadsheet cells) as generated by TMG using the criteria shown above in step 1:
"1821","06","25","Birth","(Judge) John Stringer HOFFMAN", "11306", "Weston, Virginia"," "
"1790","00","00","Birth","John HOFFMAN", "11316","Culpeper County, Virginia"," "
"1758","00","00","Birth","James HUFFMAN","11304","Culpeper County, Virginia"," "

Note that this data appears to have six fields or columns and must be edited for input to your database management program so that it would appear something like:
1821,06,25,"Birth of (Judge) John Stringer HOFFMAN (11306) in Weston, Virginia"
1758,00,00,"Birth of James HOFFMAN (11316) in Culpeper County, Virginia"
1712,09,22,"Birth of Hans Henrich HUFFMAN (11304) in Culpeper County, Virginia"

Thus the data now appears as four fields or columns for each record as indicated above.  Remember at this point that you must have three fields for your date information, and in the order specified. So if you generated the date with Date(thin), you must edit the data accordingly.

Because the information in the Event field of a timeline is often in a sentence format or partial sentence format, you need to edit the text information into a single "field" or "column" into a clause or sentence of sorts to better explain the event. Note that I concatenated all the "text" fields into a single Event field. Insofar as the Event field is concerned, you may or may not wish to take the pains to create sentence fragments that are grammatically correct. This all depends of your intended use of the timeline. If the timeline is one that you might wish to share with others, you might want to take more time and create grammatically correct phrases as it would be more "professional". On the other hand, if you just want something quick and dirty just for your own use, you might just concatenate the field into the single Event field.

Some point on how to make the modifications:

3. After editing the file, start Microsoft Access, and open the above Excel file and process it as follows:

At this point you have created a Timeline file - a .DBF file and a .DBT file.

Now enter TMG as usual and select your new timeline file. If you are on the Person view, you will see entries from the new timeline appear based on the rules of TMG as you have selected them. You now have a new timeline file that you can use.  Note that is any dates are incomplete (i.e., no day, no month, etc.) then the Date field in the Person View may display a zero in that place.

Many Timelines have a DOCumentation file which is text of your choice describing the Timeline, discussing the origin of the data, giving the author's name and address, etc.  You may create this file within TMG by editing the Timeline.  Select Tools=>Timeline Manager, scroll down the list and highlight your new Timeline. Click on the [Edit] button to display the Edit Timeline window. Click on the [Memo] button. Then in the Update Timeline memo window, enter a description of the Timeline. When finished, click on the [OK] button.  Click on the [Close] button and you will see the description in the Timeline listing.

Congratulations and have fun!

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