Tips from the Pros: Pinpointing Time of Day, from Paula Stuart-Warren, CG

Genealogists strive to find the exact day that an event occurred, such as for a birth, death, arrival in town, marriage, or christening. For some of these events it is possible to find an exact time of the day. Twentieth century (and some nineteenth) civilly recorded death and birth records usually give an exact time.

Did Grandpa’s diary state that they arrived at their new home in Greentown in the early morning? What trains ran then and at what times? A railroad schedule in a newspaper or perhaps the original schedule in a museum or archive may yield a time of arrival.

If your ancestor didn’t keep a journal or diary, maybe a neighbor did and commented on the events related to neighbors. An obituary in a small town newspaper may give the time of death. A coroner’s record generally states a time of death. Some Civil War pension files actually include a time of a battle beginning or ending and a time of injury. A letter from your grand-aunt Mabel to your grandmother might say that their mother passed away “at 3:55 this morning.”

A very dedicated clergyman or church secretary may list a time of a christening or wedding in the record book. Civil and criminal court records sometimes include an exact time of an event as do newspapers. One old settlers group’s minutes include the time of death for members.

Noting the time of day of important events can add interest to your family story. Have you recorded exact times of events in your life? Your marriage, your first kiss, a daughter or nephew’s birth, when you began your new job, or any other moment in your life?

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