Welcome!

The Early Saints Research Group is a collection of scholars who are documenting the lives of the early followers of Joseph Smith, Jr. and the Restoration (commonly known as Mormons or Latter-day Saints). Although we have a common vision of one day having a “one-stop shop” for getting information about these early saints, this is not currently a single project or a single database. Rather, we represent a wide variety of independent research projects and are exploring ways to collaborate with each other and to share our data with you.

A great meeting!

Yesterday, we had a great EarlySaints meeting. Thank you to everyone who participated, from near and far! There were a lot of great ideas expressed, which will help us to finally make some real progress in our technical goals of making the various datasets that “document the first Mormons” work together.

  • Laura Anderson discussed the need to preserve and share your research in ways that will make it useful to your colleagues and your successors.
  • Brandon Plewe demonstrated one immediate tool for doing just that, the EarlySaints Data Hub, where you can now share the data you have collected with the community and/or the public. Watch for online help on how to contribute.
  • Jeff Haddon gave us a case study on the needs the Church History Library has for interoperating databases, and their vision of what EarlySaints can do for them and how they can contribute to this community.
  • Our technical team (Luther Tychonievich, Tod Robbins, Matt McBride, Brandon Plewe) discussed their plan for facilitating database linking by  creating a “Person Authority,” a list of individuals in the early Church with a common ID (and minimal identifying attributes), which each of us can link to in our data, thus indirectly linking to all of the other databases that are doing the same. Our goal is to have this community help to build consensus on the existence of these persons. Watch the Data Hub for draft authority lists that you can test and give us feedback!

Now our collective task is to build on the energy of the meeting and continue to make progress throughout the year. Thanks again for helping us build this community!

See you at EarlySaints IV!

It’s time for our fourth annual meeting of the EarlySaints Research Group!

  • Tuesday, February 7, 2:00-5:00pm
  • Relief Society Room, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Salt Lake City

This is always a great opportunity to meet like-minded researchers who are studying the first Mormons. This year, our meeting will focus on some of the mechanisms that are being built to help you each share and connect your data with other EarlySaints projects. As always, there will also be plenty of time to connect and collaborate. If you need help with parking or with connecting remotely, contact Laura Anderson at paffanatic10@yahoo.com. See you there!

EarlySaints Summer Meeting

We had a Meeting at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence on July 15th 2016. We had many persons who attended remotely thanks to Map’n’Tour and the Hensons. We had people from Utah CHL & SUU, Virginia, Wisconsin, along with about 10 at the archive. First we went around that group and introduced all of the persons in attendance. Next the Community of Christ Archivist Rachael Killebrew explained that right now they are only open to the public one day a month and that day is determined by the day the first person wants to come. All others must come on that day or wait till the next month.

Dan Kelty introduced his Spreadsheet based on the Community of Christ documents which he wants to update with one more resource (he had just picked it up from them) before he sends a copy to myself and Brandon Plewe for sharing. He is also very knowledgable about the other branches of the restoration movement.

I then did a short presentation on how to use the LDS Church History Library and how to submit requests for digitization, use the Ask us function, Missionary and overland travel databases.

Hope all of you are doing well!

Laura
We will be shortly updating our membership with additional members.

EarlySaints III 2016

We had a very successful 3rd meeting yesterday at BYU! This year the focus was on introducing some of the technologies out there that will help our various data projects to work more closely together. We got a glimpse of the new First Century of Missionary Work site from Matt McBride, Laura Anderson, and Kevin Nielson, including how it is connecting to other databases like Overland Travels and how we might connect our data to it. We learned about Linked Data from Tod Robbins, which fosters connections between data on the internet that can be discovered and used by both people and computers. Then Luther Tychonievich discussed his efforts to automatically match people between our various databases, which will enable and strengthen the links among us.

A recurring theme was complimentarity, that each project affiliated with EarlySaints has some aspect that is unique from other projects, and that working together doesn’t make our work obsolete, but allows us to focus our resources on what we are passionate about and less on the research that others are already doing.

We were able to create a video recording of the entire meeting which you are welcome to download if you were not able to be there. It is a raw recording; the audio is occasionally bad (esp. at the beginning), but at least it’s something. If someone wants to clean it up, or cut it up into segments, that would be great.

A final note. Some have expressed interest in having a summer meeting in the Midwest. What do you think?

Technical Work Begins . . .

We had a technical work meeting with Luther Tychonievich, Tod Robbins, and Brandon Plewe yesterday to discuss some issues and strategies for federating (not merging) all of the databases that EarlySaints scholars are working on.

We developed the following short-term (this summer/fall) strategy:

  1. Match Table. A list of possible matches between persons in the various databases developed by EarlySaints participants; each match is an assertion that a person record in one database may be the same as a person record in another (or the same) database. For example, “FamilySearch KWJZ-DLC = Nauvoo Community #22006,” to a given degree of certainty (thus not demanding that we be sure yet). This will be built by some combination of automated data mining and interactive collaboration.
  2. Federated Search. A simple search interface that will look for a person in all of the databases, and return a list of matches (linking to the websites for more information). This will both use the match table, and encourage people to use the found records to add to the match table.
  3. Hosted Databases. Develop a service (or install one like CKAN) to share some of the major databases that are not currently online, thus allowing them to be part of the match table and federated search. At first, we would only do a few as a prototype, but eventually we want to make something where you can upload data yourself.

To develop these, we need as much data as possible. If you have an online person database (not a source transcription yet), would you be willing to give us either a data dump or (read-only) database access? We promise not to republish it and compete with your website. If your database is not online, could we get a copy? We will not make it public if you don’t want us to.