I am surprised to say that I got most of the family trees done for my characters. I thought it would take longer. My characters have names and 4/5 of them have birth and death dates that put them where I need them to be historically.
To figure out where the characters fell in history (and so I could adjust their dates of birth if necessary), I created a timeline using Publisher and drew vertical lines for every five years with the year labeled in a horizontal band at the bottom of the page. I had to send my husband out for legal sized paper so I could fit all the years I needed across one page.
I added a textbox for every character and added their birth and death date and anything noteworthy about the character without writing a full synopsis in a tiny textbox. The cool thing about doing this is I had to think about when and how each person would die and how old they were when they had children (lots of children). I had to give all of the characters a story.
Now I have five pages of timeline mostly completed - only one page lacks birth and death dates - the characters are listed randomly on the page.
Now it's time to do a little more historical research and a little bit of adjustment to my outlines. With some luck, I should be able to write the first chapter on October 1, which would be awesome - it was my grandma's birthday. One of the stories is for her.
(For my nerd-friends out there, isn't it funny how the spell check function doesn't recognize the word textbox even though its executed inside a textbox? What's with that?)