Thursday, July 16, 2009

BYU Historic Journals Collection

I've got a new site for you tonight. This one is an invitation only site but I believe it is a great example of where genealogy research is going in the near future. The site is the BYU Historic Journals Collection. This site opened on July 4 and is currently in beta testing phase. As their news release says "Our "invitation only" public beta has begun! The interface is still a bit clunky, but the site is ready for people to start contributing information, tags, and journals. We are using an invitation system to make sure that we don't get too many users faster than we can handle."

I received my invitation last night and I am user#10 on the system, so they are obviously taking it slow. The development team rolled out their method of linking digitized journals with genealogical information at the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries held in Austin, Texas on June 15-29, 2009. So what does this mean? Well, the collection consists of the digitized collections from the BYU Library. This includes The Overland Trails collection and the Mormon Missionary Diaries collection. So far this is about 420 journals. Currently the authors of the journals are cross referenced with the newFamilySearch (nFS) database. That means that you can search by nFS PID# to see if there is
a digitized journal in the collection by that person. But there is more. When you get an invitation to join the beta test you use your nFS login information to create your account. This allows the journal collection to search your ancestors as they are laid out in nFS to see if there are any journals that match your list of people. Another thing that you can do is tag names as you read the journals. If you find a name in the text you can cross reference it with that person's PID# in nFS and they will be linked to that individual for others to search. Can you imagine the power of this type of tool in genealogical research. Consider if we had the censuses or court records cross referenced to individuals by their PID#. We could select the individual and ask to see all of the documents that reference that person. No more searching through various results in the hope of finding the right person.

In a discussion with Doug Kennard, one of the site developers, he stated "We're hoping that people will contribute information about journals they know about and upload scanned images of the journals they do have, since it is my belief that the majority of journals are in peoples' private possession instead of in libraries. We have done the work of developing the site, but we're hoping other people will see the value of adding content and reference information to it. Just like wikipedia bacame a great information resource because lots of people added content to it, we're hoping that lots of people will use this tool that we have built and add content (reference information and scanned journals). If they do, the combined effort will result in huge payoff for everybody who uses it."

The website can be found at A video is available on youtube at I hope you get a chance to visit the site and find something of interest. By the way I have a few invitations to give out. Only 10, so first come first serve.