UVa Press announces the release this week of a powerful new online resource, People of the Founding Era, a digital biographical dictionary that will be open to the public during its beta release.
Developed in collaboration with Documents Compass, a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, People of the Founding Era provides biographical information for thousands of individuals active during a crucial period in American history. Beginning with 12,000 but eventually expanding to over 60,000 people born between 1713 and 1815, the subjects include members of many of the most important families of the era, as well as individuals—such as artisans, merchants, slaves, and Native Americans—whose lives are not typically documented in historical archives.
Finding information on such a large population, and covering such a broad area of history, would have once required access to hundreds of volumes of historic documents. People of the Founding Era makes that information immediately accessible and offers entirely new ways of discovering connections between individuals.
“From family history to teaching and scholarly research, The People of the Founding Era is a new kind of digital tool,” said Mark H. Saunders, Interim Director of the UVa Press. “Drawing on decades of documentary editing and the methodologies of prosopography, married with digital humanities, this resource not only provides biographical information; it assembles and visualizes that information in exciting new ways.”
An innovative “faceted browsing” approach allows users to search across the resource or to access populations by groupings such as place, gender, occupation, or enslavement. All entries include some biographical data, and many have a complete profile—full name, birth date, place of birth, death date, place of death, occupation, gender, and nationality. The relationships between subjects, including kinship, are driven by structured tagging and presented within each entry. Information in many of these entries has been extracted directly from the Papers projects in Rotunda’s American Founding Era collection: in these cases, People of the Founding Era links back to the original references within their respective editions, so users may explore more fully the context in which the individual was originally documented.
Historians, genealogists, and all students of American history will find in the People of the Founding Era the most authoritative biographical dictionary of the period, and more.
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