FromThePage: collaborative transcription for family history

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Ben Brumfield

Sep 11, 2009, 10:58:21 PM9/11/09
to BeyondGen
I have just discovered the BeyondGen group and am sorry I never saw it
earlier. I'm a software developer in Austin, Texas, who's been
working on a Ruby on Rails-based tool for crowd-sourcing manuscript
transcription over the past 4 years. The project arose out of my own
need for help transcribing my great-great grandmother's diaries, and
the lack of any suitable software at that time that would allow me to
collaborate with family members in doing so.

FromThePage allows family archivists (or their technically-adept
kinfolk) to upload scanned images of handwritten materials, then
collaborate on transcribing, annotating, and printing those
documents. Each page preserves a version history of its
transcriptions and displays the scanned image alongside the
transcription for quality checking. Users can annotate pages via
notes appended to the page (similar to comment threads on blog posts),
requesting help or suggesting corrections. Each transcription may
contain wiki-style links to subjects mentioned within the page,
allowing persons, places, and activities to be elaborated upon and
cross-indexed to other pages mentioning the same subject. A
rudimentary data-mining tool analyzes relationships between subjects
based on their co-location in the same manuscript page(s), so that
users can graphically mine the text for answers to questions such as
"what sort of agricultural activities took place when the weather was

Currently, the beta site ( ) hosts the
Julia Brumfield Diaries, of which more than 600 pages have been
transcribed by users other than myself. There has been some limited
interest from other manuscript transcription projects, including
people and institutions wanting to host letters, poetry, and chinese
translations. However, I'm only developing the FromThePage software
in my spare time, so project velocity is severely constrained.

I'm looking for patient, tech-savvy family historians to collaborate
with. The beta site can host other manuscript collections for free,
provided the managers of their transcription projects are willing to
provide honest, critical feedback. I'm also looking for advice on
product design: I've been posting my ideas to a blog ( ) and would love to
discuss design ideas with this group. Finally, in a month or so I
will release FromThePage under a free/open-source license--probably on
GitHub--and hope other (Rails) developers will contribute.

Ben Brumfield
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