One of the presentations by George G. Morgan at a recent genealogy seminar was on developing ancestor profiles. At first I wondered how this differed from ancestor timelines of which I have used in the past as I researched various family lines. As Mr. Morgan explained how he brought his ancestors "back to life," I realized his ancestor profile was very different from a timeline.
"Organization is the key," he explained. He said how he had boxes and files filled with snippets of information on his ancestors. He would tackle one person at a time, dumping all the items on the table, and then organizing them chronologically. Each piece of information was weighed against the others and against the "big picture" of his ancestor's life.
Take into account the local, state, and national events that might affect an ancestor's life, and it's important to geographically locate your ancestor at every point in time. You do this by using census records, property records, tax records, obituaries, wills, etc.
Identify the other people in your ancestor's life. Once this information is gathered and documented, the profile is developed, and his example brought it all together. He started with the earliest year in which he located his ancestor, i.e. marriage of her parents. He then took each year and listed the event. Listed beneath each year/event were his sources with full citations. Sometimes he had one source; for other years/events he had three. With that list he can quickly see where he might need to find more information. And when it comes time to put all this information into narrative form, all the source material is right at hand.
I like the idea of developing an ancestor profile as it quickly shows where I have holes in my research or where I need to have additional sources to verify information.