TMG Tips: Using the Timeline to Help Census Research

Researching the US Census records on my ancestors is a time consuming and often frustrating process. Not all the information is correct in the census, and not all of the information has been transcribed and is easily found in databases. Sometimes you have to dig into the census records manually and virtually thumb through page after page in a specific city, county or state.

For those you do find, proving that who you found is indeed your relative comes down to location, family members, birthplaces, and age. One of the frustrating parts for me is figuring out how old each person I’m researching was in which census record. How old were they in the 1860, 1880, 1910, or 1930 census?

TMG Tips - using the Timeline to apply Census dates to family members details to help with researchThe Master Genealogist (TMG) has a Timeline feature which makes this process of determining how old each person was at the time of a census. To initiate it globally, go to Tools > Timeline Manager. Go through the list and deselect (uncheck by using the unselect button or double clicking on each selected item) every checked item in the Timeline list. Then select only USCENSS1 described as “As-of dates for all census tabulation since 1790. Contributed by Lee Hoffman.”

Be sure and check the box at the bottom of the screen that says Show the events from the selected time lines. and click Close.

Now, when you view each person’s details, the year of the census will be shown in red.

TMG tips - Showing Census fields in red with the age column turned on to help with research

If you have the Age Column turned on, the estimated or actual age of the person will be shown next to the year of the census. To turn on the Age Column, go to File > Preferences > Tag Box and select Show Age Column. On the same panel, you can also set the color background for the Timeline fields. I’ve set them to be red so they are easily identifiable from the rest of the data.

TMG Tips - How to turn on the age columns on the TMG details view

Now that I know I’m looking for a Hans Anderson in Wisconsin who was 35 for the 1880 Census, I can rule out the Hans Andersons who are 12, 48, 54, and 76.

To turn this feature off, simply go to Tools > Timeline Manager and deselect the Census timeline. It’s back to normal.

You can use this feature while researching any time-oriented aspect of your family’s history. By turning on the Timeline for a specific war, epidemic, US political history or history throughout the rest of the world, or whatever time line you have included. The Master Genealogist comes with a wide variety of timelines installed, but you can add more. For a list of some timelines you can add to TMG, see TMG Timelines.

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About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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