Historical events or facts into Timelines with Gramps?


I just bought a book - Contexte - that evokes the daily life of the French from the year 1000 to the present day. I would like to extract quotes and events or facts from them in order to bring them closer to the period of life of my ancestors.

Contexte France

Its 250 pages looks like the ones below. Obviously I’m not going to turn these 250 pages into citations and events but extract some of them. To give you an idea here is what we find there:

The cost of living for each decade. The housewife’s basket; Incomes, salaries, wages and salaries of soldiers; Current expenses, for housing, clothing and household linen, furniture.

The historical context - on the left - and the daily context - on the right. The daily context consists of a top quote and the headings: Hygiene, Health, Medicine; Economic life; Transport and communication; Religious life; Military life; Movement of ideas; Cultural life.

I wonder how to highlight the timeline of my ancestors with in parallel those of the events they may have known or which affected them, their lives, from that book. Would you have any idea how to proceed? And, what tools or reports would allow me to make combined timelines, personal or family but combined with a life context?

Of course, the future version 5.2 will help to attach some of these events to places but everything is not related to places and in the meantime, are there already things possible?

Do you have experience of such actions and timelines using Gramps?


I have a few of those events in a Gramps test database (for Norway), and tried to link people to them, but I never got any good result (maybe I don’t understand the reports in Gramps good enough)…

I added the Norwegian “history” to my timeline chart in Prodegy Genlines and combined it with my Legacy database…

Some tips for other possible software:
Today I use Aeon Timeline to create “real” timelines. but you could also use the free open soure “The Timeline Project” …

Or Running Reality…

Would have been great to have a graphical timeline that could display parallel timelines in Gramps, but I think that would be a lot of work… MAybe a gramplet utilizing “The Timeline Project”?


I have been toying with an idea similar to PLegoux’s suggestion: a timeline of the important border modifications for a given region.
We have many ancestors from the Nord-Flandres-Hainaut region, where different areas belonged to France, Spanish Low Countries, Netherlands (independent), or Belgium at various times.
Many emigrated to Nieuw Nederland, New Sweden, etc (today NY NJ PA area), and those places changed owners several times.
These events triggered many emigrations of the Huguenots/Protestants for religious freedom, and of course renaming of cities/etc (New Amsterdam-NY, Fort Oranje-Ft Albany).
It would be nice to be able to call a timeline of those changes when working on ancestors of that era.
And if a suitable report format can be designed, it would give a useful perspective on the lives and motivations of those ancestors.

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I’ve started writing a prototype to investigate this idea further.

I’m using our existing events marked with a “Timeline” tag and without people attached. At the moment I am plotting events with compound dates (ranges and spans) as rectangles and events with single dates as circles. It would obviously be possible to change the display format according to the event type.

We need to think about the layout. I’m not displaying any text at the moment. Perhaps the event descriptions could be displayed in tooltips and more detailed notes in a side panel. Any ideas are welcome.

What do we want to display from our own family tree along side this? Lifespans and major events are possibilities.

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For example, I know a woman (Catalogne Brigitte on Facebook) which do two things manually:

  1. select general (on the left) and personal events (on the right) in a file:
  2. Transcribe them manually into a timeline (that timeline is not related to previous events, its an example):

Something similar could be done in Gramps with multiple tags; one for general events to be selected and one for particular events to one or more persons to be illustrated by the both kind of events.
Regular birth, marriage and death events could be automatically selected and some particular personal events (war participant, elected senator, etc) of persons could be selected thru a second kind of tag different from the general events tag.

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@PLegoux Thanks. I’ll use that example as a starting point.

Is it viable for Gramps to load 2 databases? If it could (with only one being writable) then maybe we could have world events in a Read-Only.

If you want to edit the World history you just have swap active trees.

No. There are no plans for this.

Could you also let the user choose a custom Events filter that they’ve created, to further refine the selection?

Users might want the option of having the timeline vertical rather than horizontal, and to choose which direction time should flow on the desired axis.

Here’s another idea. Arrange the Places of the Events (selected or filtered by the user) on the other axis. The granularity of the Places would depend on the particular use case, and so should be controllable through options (as well as the user’s defined Place hierarchies).

For example, the timeline might be for the US Civil War in the 1860s, the Events might include battles, enlistments, deaths, etc. and the Places might be the states. The user might have a Place hierarchy that groups the Confederate and Union states separately, and might wish to have the Place axis ordered alphabetically within each of those groups.

Another option might be to let the user choose whether to order the Place axis (not proportionally) by latitude or longitude. A possible use case for this would be a filtered set of events that illustrates a family’s migration across a continent over several generations.

Of course, there could also be a map with a timeline slider, but that would be something entirely different.


This is a screenshot of what I have working so far:

I also have an option to exclude the dates.

The display is working, but there are a couple of issues to fix:

  • Some text is lost off the right hand edge of the chart.
  • The layout is not ideal. For example, it would be better if the “Juan Carlos 1er” event was at the top. At the moment events are drawn in the order that they are retrieved from the database, from the top downwards.

Next, I need to add personal events. Should I keep birth and death events separate or combine them into a lifespan for the individual?

We can also think about using different colours or perhaps different shapes from the non-compound dates.

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Does the drawing mode support hairline borders for the bars and dots? They would look a lot more modern with finer lines.

Yes. I’m using Cairo graphics. We can specify a line width.

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Great! While you’re troubleshooting, you might want to use semitransparent fills for your RGBa values too.

You’ll be able to spot overlaps and mis-alignments more easily. And the colors will work for light & dark modes.

Another screenshot:

This time in dark mode. The line width is now 1.0 and the alpha set to 0.5 for the shading.

I’ve added some code to draw the lifespans of people. I’m not sure that I like this format. It looks like a single event.

Perhaps two circles (one for birth and the other for death) connected by a line would be better? This approach would work better where we are missing a birth or death event, or the person is still alive. I’m already using fallback events when necessary.

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Maybe Professor Borges would be willing to critique the visulization. Or give permission to reproduce his (or his students’) designs.

Deductive timelines?

Nick’s (@Nick-Hall) discussion with Oliver (@OlliL) about the Verify rules reminded me of these timelines. And the thought occurred that those verification rules could be represented graphically on a time line chart. To be used as a deductive tool for narrowing date estimations and sanity checks.

Say that the top of the time above the ruler graphs all the Verify Rules for the Person’s events (and possibly the Family events and relevant Parent/spouse/sibling/offspring events) plotted below.

  • birth date of “before Apr 1900”
    so below, a birth bar is plotted from Apr 1850 (before 1900AD - 50yrs, the preference for 'before") to Apr 1900
    Correspondingly above, a deduced maximum lifespan bar appears above – plotted from Apr 1850 to (Apr 1950 + 11yrs, preferences for “Max Age Probably alive” )
  • Marriage date of “Jun 1908”
    so below, a marriage bar is plotted from 1 Jun 1908 to 30 Jun 1908
    Correspondingly above, 2 bars are plotted above on a row: a deduced birth bar of (1908-110yrs, max.lifespan) to (1908-13yrs, puberty onset); and a deduced death bar of (1908) to (1908-13yrs+110yrs)
  • his wife bore a child on “12 Mar 1935” (adjust to plot a conception date for Premature and Late births)
    Correspondingly above, plot a max lifespan based on the Conception date limits; and with latest possible birth and earliest possible death.

when all the Events are plotted (and there might be an option to Disregard particular events), then you could Flatten the Sanity Checks. So that all the deduced values are represented on the bar. Or Trim them, so only the earliest end of lifespan value is retained and only the latest beginning of lifespan.

Then have an option to highlight conflicting plotted data.

I’ll get back to these after 5.2.0 has been released. I also have a collection of views that allow users to see everything stored in an object on one screen.


I expected it would be after 5.3 … but wanted to get the thought down with the rest and linking done. (It can be hard to rediscover material in Discourse.)

That sounds cool. Any chance it’ll have a gramplet to show the XML of the same data… including secondary objects?

Pasting that back into the Text import with a tweak to remove the top object’s handle could give us a ‘Clone’ feature