Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Operation War Diary

If you are feeling the need to contribute to the greater genealogy community, there are a number of ways to get involved. One of my sons sent me a link to a newer project called Operation War Diary. This project involves indexing the diaries of British soldiers during World War I. The Diaries are in the British National Archives and the project is also working with the Imperial War Museum. The Project is being managed by Zooniverse. Here is an explanation of the Project:
Zooniverse was established in 2007 to use the efforts and ability of volunteers to help scientists and researchers deal with the flood of data that confronts them.
It is a collaboration between universities and museums, led by the University of Oxford and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, which creates citizen science and humanities projects. To date, nearly a million people have used Zooniverse websites to discover planets, transcribe ancient papyri and keep an eye on plankton. The Operation War Diary project builds on the team's experience with the award-winning Old Weather project, which has mined more than a million pages drawn from 19th and early 20th century ship's logs in order to find information of interest to climate scientists and historians.
My son is an astrophysicist and has been involved with Zooniverse in the physical science area.

Here is a description of the diaries themselves:
War diaries were kept for two reasons: to provide an accurate record of operations for preparing the official history of the war, and to collect information that would help make improvements in preparing the army for war.

The war diaries contain a wealth of information of far greater interest than the army could ever have predicted. They provide unrivalled insight into daily events on the front line, and are full of fascinating detail about the decisions that were made and the activities that resulted from them.

The National Archives has digitised the war diaries of the units under the command of the British and Indian cavalry and infantry divisions on the Western Front. The war diaries are made up of a variety of different types of pages, including cover pages, title pages, orders, signals, maps, narrative reports and the main diary pages themselves. They are catalogued by theatre of operations, unit and the date range covered, but we don't know much more about the content of the diaries beyond this.
This sounded an awful lot like genealogy to me and I guess it did to my son also. If you know of a group or society that needs a project, this might fit the bill.


  1. Are there any projects like this for civilian diaries? I've been transcribing and translating my great-grandfather's sister's diary from World War 1. She lived very close to (and at times directly on) the front lines of the Eastern Front (in what would become Latvia after the war). She was an eyewitness to many tragedies of war, as well as the Russian Revolution and subsequent Latvian War of Independence and Russian Civil War.

    1. Sorry, not that I know of. But it seems to me that your ancestor's diary should be published depending on the way it is written.

  2. I am publishing it bit by bit on my blog - though posting it is an extended process, since I post on the days the events occurred 97 years ago. I've been posting for the past two years. I'm not a professional translator though, so sometimes the prose can be a bit clunky (especially when translating poetry.... ouch), but oh well. If I choose to publish it as a book later on I'll have a professional go through it to tidy up my translation.

    If anyone's interested in reading, it's here: (though as the page presents it, they're in reverse chronological order).