Timelines are essential research tools for untangling same-named people, sorting out migration mysteries and writing about ancestors’ lives. They also let you tell an ancestors’ story in a visual, easily digestible way. Twile, an online timeline tool and 2016 winner at the RootsTech conference Innovator Showdown, combines all these purposes in an interactive, easy-to-use format. Unlike family timelines built on other genealogy websites, each Twile user’s timeline is private by default, accessible to friends and family by invitation. You must include relatives in your tree in order to invite them to view the timeline.
And Twile is now free to all users, so anyone can take advantage of formerly premium features such as unlimited tree size and sharing. Follow our guide to give Twile timelines a try.
1. At the top of the Twile home page, click the green Register button to create an account. Enter your name, email address and a password, or sign up with Facebook. At present, each account supports one timeline and family tree.
You have three options for building a timeline: Create a new one from scratch, import data from a FamilySearch family tree, or import a GEDCOM file. For optimal flexibility, I suggest creating a new timeline (you can always add a GEDCOM file later). The next screen prompts you to enter your birthdate. You also can start with an ancestor’s birth, if it’s in 1900 or later. Next, add the births of your parents or the starting person’s parents (they must be in 1850 or later), and death dates if applicable, or skip this step for now. Then you’ll be prompted for your parents’ wedding date, if known.
2. The main Twile window has tabs for two views: Timeline or Family Tree. In Timeline view, you can select Add to add an event (called a “milestone”), upload photos from your computer, or import photos from Facebook. Click In View to choose what to display on your timeline, such as only close or all family members, and historical events in a range of categories. To focus on one ancestor, select In View and choose that person under “Or Show a Single Person.”
3. Click on a milestone in Timeline view to edit it or add related photos, documents and stories. Click the icons at the top right to access tutorials (check box); notifications of invited users’ activity (bell); help topics (question mark); and logout, Settings and the Twile blog (lines). Use the Talk to Us chat button in the bottom right corner to ask the Twile team a question.
4. Add photographs, document images and stories to a person’s profile by selecting the Family Tree view and clicking on the person’s name. Choose Profile, where you’ll find options to add a profile picture or a milestone for that person.
5. Quickly populate your timeline by clicking on Import Family Tree in Family Tree view, then choosing FamilySearch (imports your family tree on FamilySearch) or GEDCOM file. You’ll have the option to either merge people with your existing Twile tree or discard your Twile tree and start over. If you choose “merge,” Twile attempts to match and merge people, with your input. Unresolved matches will result in duplicate profiles.
6. A neat feature is the infographic showing your family stats. To see it, go to the FamilyTree view and click the View Infographic button. You can share it on Facebook and Twitter, and order a professional print.
A version of this article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Family Tree Magazine.