Caution – Using Timelines to Display Your Family History


I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert in using timelines to display ancestor events for my family history. In 2010 I became interested in incorporating a timeline in my website. So after a few hours research, I settled on I tried a few others and found xtimeline to my liking. 

Basically with xtimeline, you enter the events in your own private (or public) timeline on the xtimeline site. Then you can embed the timeline in your own site. As an example, check out my Braunhart Family Timeline.

OOPS – if you are using a smartphone, the timeline will not display. It is done in Flash, so obviously if you are on an iPhone it will not display. But I have an Android phone and it won’t display there either. This was recently discovered by me as I don’t often view my own website on my phone.

After further research, I discovered that many of the online timeline sites use Flash as well. This is not going to be a timeline site/app comparison discussion, but I have looked at Dipity, and Capzle as well as TimeToast. And there are dozens of others that are available, either for the iPhone, Android, or online via your PC – and many of them are based on Flash.

So the CAUTION is – if your timeline capability is based on Flash and you embed the timeline in your blog/website – you need to make a change – otherwise it will not be supported on mobile. Furthermore – what is the life expectancy of Flash on any platform? Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have an issue with Flash in general, but it is a technical issue as many vendors are eliminating the use of it.

So what to do? I settled on TimelineJS.  What is it?  From their website:

TimelineJS is an open-source tool that enables you to build visually-rich interactive timelines and is available in 40 languages. It can pull in media from different sources and has built in support for: Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Dailymotion, Wikipedia, SoundCloud and more media types are regularly added.

One of the things I like about it beyond the multi-media options, is that it is driven by entering data into a Google spreadsheet. I had my new timeline up and running in about 15 minutes, and after another 15 minutes of tweaks I embedded it into my website (see Braunhart Family Timeline). Fortunately xtimeline had an export capability to a .csv file so I didn’t have to retype everything. Oh I still need to populate the new timeline with photos and videos  but it is incredibly easy to do that.

So – be careful out there (to quote an old Hill Street Blues line). Check to see if the timeline on your site is supported on mobile devices. Everyone loves free – as most of these timeline apps are – but will they work long term?

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    1. Thank you Wendy. It is a great way to visually display events and is also useful for analysis.

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