November 12th, 2009

Google News Timeline Helps You Find Your Family History

Sometimes the best place to start your genealogy research is in the comfort of your own home. A few weeks ago I told you about my favorite free genealogy websites and my favorite paid subscription genealogy websites to help you get started on genealogy search. Now here is yet another excellent tool for researching your family history: Google News Timeline.

This interactive timeline allows you to research specific events and see all the related news and information about that event in a timeline format.


When you get to Google News Timeline, you will see a timeline of current events and the current date. It looks like a series of columns, at the top of each column you’ll see the day and then under that day, you’ll see news events from that day.

To enter a search about a specific event, you enter in the name of the event or the day, date, month or year and then click on Add Query. What comes up is a timeline displaying news from the time of the event that you entered.

Across the top, you will see the date and under each month is the column of news articles for that month. If you enter in a search query with an exact day you will see the columns shown by day but in my example below, I entered a year so the timeline appeared by month.


At the top of the page, Google allows you to change the view of the data you get, you can choose to view it by Day, Week, Month, Year, and Decade.

You can also view the information in small, medium and large. I usually leave it on medium, unless I have a lot of information to scroll through then I use the small function or if I am having a hard time reading the print, then I select large.

For example: I am doing some research about the men and women who fought in WWII. To get information from that time, I entered a date, in this case the year, 1941, was sufficient to bring up several articles. I entered a search query into the window at the top of the page: 1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor WWII


Since I had entered the year and not the exact date, the timeline started at the beginning of 1941 so I was able to scroll through the news articles preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was able to scroll by clicking on the arrows at the top left and top right of the time line.

You can also manipulate the timeline, but clicking on it and dragging it over and releasing the mouse when you see the months you want to look at.

The results that appear in the timeline are just short descriptions of the information found in the original article. You can click on each entry and an new window opens up with the fact or article in full. Google Timelines pulls articles from many sources, Wikipedia, magazines, newspaper archives, and blogs or online articles.


To refine your searches, click save at the top left corner of your timeline if you want to refine your search but still keep the information you already found. I saved it, but added the query 1941 Hawaii News and got news articles for that year in which Hawaii was mentioned.

Also click on “Add More Queries” to refine your results even more. Play around with the queries and use search terms that are related to your original search term, you’ll be excited by the information you can find online.

As you can see, Google timeline is a powerful tool for understanding the historical context of an event or time that you are researching. It’s a really effective way to understand what life was like for your ancestors.

How has Google News Timeline worked for you?