Timeline Pedigree Charts


Genealogists often love charts. One of the first things I’m interested in when I use a new piece of genealogical software is to see what kinds of charts they can generate. A lot of us family historians are “big-picture” people who like to see

everything at once, so the more ways to do it, the better!

I’d like to share one way to visualize the people on your family tree. It is more interesting visually than the typical pedigree chart and does a better job of quickly showing the age dynamics of your tree without becoming anoverly complicated diagram.


A timeline pedigree chart for Marjorie Helen Oliver

The chart is one big timeline, with older dates to the right. I’ve started this chart with my great grandmother, Marjorie Helen Oliver. She died in 1988, which marks the leftmost boundary of this chart. Her box continues to the right until her birth in 1901, at which point her parents’ boxes begin. Likewise, their boxes continue to the right until their births, in 1868 and 1872 respectively, at which points their parents are revealed, and so on.

This isn’t a standard-issue chart you’ll find in most genealogical software packages, but it is fairly simple to create in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel if you are familiar with the software. The boxes can be filled in with the exact birth, marriage, and death dates, like a standard chart, or whatever information you like.

To create a 5-generation timeline pedigree chart with yourself at the base, here are the basic steps:

1 – In a new spreadsheet, shrink the columns so they are small enough to see about 150 at once. This is the year timeline.

2 – Label the top row with years from the present to the birth year of your oldest great-great grandparent. (There is a shortcut – in Excel, type 2011 in A1, then 2010 in B1, select both cells, then drag the little box in the bottom right-hand corner to the right to have Excel automatically number the cells as far back as you like.)

3 – Format the top row of cells to read vertically instead of horizontally, and adjust the formatting of the row so you can read the years if all you see are ‘#’ signs.

4 – Starting in cell A2, select an area of cells that is 16 rows high and wide enough to reach the year of your birth from the timeline. When these are selected, merge the cells into one giant cell, and then click on it and enter your name.

5 – For your father, starting in the first unmerged cell in row 2, select an area that is 8 rows high and wide enough to reach his year of birth. Merge the selected cells together and click on the new cell to enter his name.

6 – Repeat this process for your mother beginning directly below your father’s cell.

7 – Repeat for your grandparents, using only 4 rows per cell this time.

8 – And so on for your great-grandparents, using only 2 rows, then your great-great-grandparents, who only get one row each.

9 – Select the 16 rows your pedigree is on, and select to create borders around all cells.

10 – Select the cells which belong to your pedigree and fit them to one sheet of paper in order to print on one page.

Now you can impress your family and friends with your great-looking, unique pedigree chart!

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Reader Comments

This is a very interesting system to show your pedigree – I’ll be giving it a try this week! Thanks for the tip. – Celia

Thanks for reminding me of this chart format! I have used Progeny’s Genelines software – at http://progenygenealogy.com/products/timeline-charts.aspx – to produce similar charts. With Genelines you can generate the chart from a GEDCOM file or directly from some genealogy software – a lot easier than entering it by hand into a spreadsheet.

I like the way the Progeny implementation lets you use colours automatically to mark generations; also much simpler and easier than in a spreadsheet. As a bonus you can also add a timeline along the top for external events – kings and queens, presidents, wars, censuses, changes in legislation – you get the idea! I find this perfect for passing on to grandchildren (and others) because it links their family’s history to their school studies and knowledge of history. They often excitedly comment “I did that at school!”

Oh, and by the way, Genelines includes lots of other chart formats…

Usual disclaimers

Hope this helps