While writing down family history excerpts or stories, I often find myself in need of finding out how my family events relate to the history of the place they happened at. For example, several of my family members were in Lublin, Poland on 24. July 1944 when the Soviet Red Army took the city from the Nazi occupiers. It was obviously an important event in their lives, as it was for anyone present, but on the other hand the part of my family who simply weren't there (for example because they were fighting the same Red Army as a member of the Wehrmacht some 200km further north ...) really couldn't care less, and having this event show up for them would just clutter up their timeline.

My main software of choice, webtrees, allows me to create and show "global events" in everyone's timeline, but there are precious few really globally important ones - like the Moon landings - in the world history. What I would need is a system to record an event happening at a place and then have it (optionally) show up in the timeline of people who are determined to (likely) be at this place at the time of the event, and nobody else.

Which genealogical software supports location-based and location-limited events, and how is it solved there?

Side notes:

  1. I know the current GEDCOM standard (5.5.1 as of time of writing) doesn't and can't support this feature, since locations/places aren't first-order elements there. Consequently, I'm aware that any export of such events will have them either duplicated in a lot of places or simply missing.

  2. How such events are recorded and used is important to me, since webtrees is open source and I could extend it for myself if I knew what people are already using.

  3. This could turn up into a "fishing for recommendations" kind of questions, which is generally frowned upon on the SE network. I'd consider to apply a similar rule to the RPG.SE one for such subjective questions: Please consider answering only if you actually used the software and the relevant feature of it so you can have an informed opinion on it, not just when you saw something sounding like it in the software's feature list.


3 Answers 3


As you mentioned in the question, you are interested in this for the purpose of inclusion of these events in a timetime.

A timeline mechanism is actually the way most programs handle personless events. They simply associate a date with an event. It could be implemented within the program simply as one timeline where you put everything, or there can be multiple timelines for multiple types of events, e.g. American history, European history, or whatever. Some programs allow you to select what timelines to include with the events of your individuals. But few genealogy programs are really designed to smartly and only include events that are place-related to the person of interest. That would require maintaining location information about the person throughout their life, which few programs do.

What there are, however, are some pretty sophisticated timeline tools which are genealogically oriented. A few will work with GEDCOM and with them you can add your ancestor events into the timelines they generate.

The one I am most familiar with (but can't say I'm a user of) is Genelines and it was specifically designed as a utility program for genealogists.

  • Interesting links, thanks. I'd have to disagree with the "few programs maintain location information about the person" assertion though. That's exactly what the PLAC and DATE GEDCOM tags are for, and I'm using it rigorously with every single event associated with a person or family in my tree. In particular the BIRT, RESI, EDUC, OCCU and DEAT events would allow a program to make a good guess at the relevant local events, but I also mapped one of my grandfather's military career with nearly daily precision through the use of custom events with associated places and dates ... Sep 15, 2013 at 22:29
  • Martin: Most of those events you mention are single point-in-time events. If you know a person was born in Prague in 1864, worked in Paris in 1901 and died in Philadelphia in 1943, do you know what years he lived in Prague, Paris and Philadelphia? Do you know if he even lived in those cities or just had that event there? Do you know if there were any other cities he lived in? To know everything properly, you'd have to have the RESI tag filled in properly with FROM and TO dates for each residence, which is hard to find accurate evidence for. Do you really want the program to guess? Not so easy.
    – lkessler
    Sep 16, 2013 at 0:30
  • 1
    Yes, I want the program to "guess" (or rather, interpolate) since that easily cuts down the amount of people some specific local event applies to by an order of magnitude or more. That's the whole point. It doesn't have to be perfect, just better than either "every non-personal and non-family event is global" (current webtrees approach), "select everyone some specific event applies to manually" or "events are only personal or family-related" (default GEDCOM approach). Sep 16, 2013 at 5:05
  • Interesting idea. Some programs estimate the birth or marriage year, but I've not heard of any that put a location between "interpolated" dates for the purpose of timelines. If a program one day implements residence-based family units, more accuracy will be needed than what the interpolation provides, so I think a RESI (full address) FROM/TO based system would ultimately be better for all needs.
    – lkessler
    Sep 16, 2013 at 5:19

On problem with this is that most software doesn't have a hierarchy of places. As such an event that happened in Russia, would not show up for somebody in Moscow, Russia.

This is as far as I can tell also true for GRAMPS, but with that Caveat, then you can in GRAMPS create events that has a location attached. I don't know of any way to get those events to show up on a time line though.


I use MacFamilyTree on the Mac OSX and you have a variety of events types you can insert specifically into an individuals timeline as well as I believe create custom event types. You can ALSO edit the general World event timeline to include important events at your pleasure or remove individual ones that come by default.

When you then print or display charts or reports it also has filters on most of them which you can select to include World Events for the time period, remove event types from the report, or even remove specific world events from the timeline.

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A generic example of just using an other event I added. enter image description here

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