It was such a pleasure to interview Robert Raymond, the presenter of “Using Excel to Create Time Lines” at the 2012 National Genealogical Society Conference. Mr. Raymond is a member of the NGS Board of Directors and is Deputy for FamilySearch Chief Genealogical Officer, David Rencher. Mr. Raymond also writes an award-winning blog and the author of a family history website.
“Using Excel to Create Timelines” is an interesting topic to help genealogists place their families in historical context and to organize data in a visual format. Mr. Raymond demonstrated how to use Excel to create time lines. One of the tough situations at a conference of this type is to reach the audience about the possibilities of the software without getting bogged down in the keystrokes and menus. Mr. Raymond explained the technical aspects and also was able to convey the usefulness of this method to provide context for family history.
There are some tricks to working with Excel. Dates after 1900 are already formatted with the default settings, but Excel does not support pre-1900 dates. Mr. Raymond suggested placing dates in Excel in the typical genealogical format: 24 Oct 1881 and also making a separate column for the sortable format: 1881-10-24. There were some tricks to using years with no month or date: 1719-00-00. This sortable format will allow the time line to fill in the proper sequence.
Mr. Raymond generated many types of charts using data. He made a time line with a table where the text was oriented at a 45-degree angle.
Mr. Raymond was so gracious to spend a few minutes from his busy time at NGS 2012 to talk about genealogical organization. If you have a chance at future conferences, look for a Robert Raymond presentation. You will certainly enjoy it and learn something new and useful!
Graphs used with permission of the author and creator, Robert Raymond.