Meet Our Editorial Teams
by Jennifer Ann Mackley
Transcribing and publishing documents sounds like a simple procedure . . . a knowledgeable individual carefully reads an original document and simply types the letters and words into a text document, right? Yes and no. First, the original document needs to be located and authenticated. Then it needs to be digitized and catalogued. The next step is creating an editorial method explaining how every possible scenario will be addressed: each comma, apostrophe, illegible letter, spelling variation, stray mark, and symbol on the page; whether the letters and symbols are in pencil or ink, whose handwriting each letter or mark is in, etc. etc. Using that editorial method, the team then begins the process of hiring individuals who understand the historical context of the documents, are experienced in nineteenth-century grammar and spelling, and—in the case of Wilford Woodruff—are also able to read Taylor and Pittman Shorthand, Greek, Latin, and what we affectionately refer to as Wilfordish (his own unique form of English). Then the process of transcription can actually begin.
Transcription not only involves typing the letters and words, but also includes the HTML coding the computer uses to interpret the original author’s use of bold, underlined, or superscript text, as well as any strikethroughs or interlineations in the text. And that is only the beginning. After transcription by a knowledgeable individual, a team of two knowledgeable individuals must verify the transcription. To add context to the document’s text the verifier also hyperlinks every person and place mentioned so the final document will be connected to the biographical sketches for each person and the mapping of every place.
This is where the research teams enter the picture. One team definitively identifies each individual Wilford Woodruff interacted or corresponded with and then a second team conducts the research to write a biographical sketch for each of those individuals. A third team completes the research to identify each place in context of the timeframe. For example, based on the date, we have to determine whether Utah was known as the State of Deseret (1849-1851), Utah Territory (1851-1896), or as the State of Utah. After these tasks are completed, each document is stylized so it is compatible with our publishing program, triple-checked, and finally uploaded from our text editor to our website and published.
Our JOURNALS TEAM is led by Steve Harper. The Wilford Woodruff journal entries published on the site in September cover July 1845 to December 1853. In the past 9 months we have completed 20 years of his journal entries. By March 1, 2023 we will have prepared the remaining 45 years of journal entries for publication.
Our LETTERS TEAM is led by Sherilyn Farnes. Sherilyn also manages the crowdsourcing transcription team. Through crowdsourcing and the mentorship and training provided by our Editorial Assistants, we have been able to transcribe 1,390 letters of the almost 6,500 digitized letters we have located. The first letters published on our website on March 1, 2021, were correspondence between Wilford and Phebe Woodruff. The letters published on September 1, 2021 focused on Wilford’s apostolic mission in the British Isles between 1839 and 1841. A total of 85 letters will be published before March 1, 2022.
Our AUTOBIOGRAPHIES/HISTORIES TEAM is led by Ashlyn Dyer Pells, one of our talented interns. Ashlyn’s training in editing and publishing has helped her team transcribe, verify, and hyperlink 10 of Wilford Woodruff’s 11 Autobiographies. These autobiographical records include numerous treasured accounts of the miracles, hardships, successes, lessons, and blessings that he experienced throughout his life. We published the first autobiography on March 1, 2021. A total of 9 autobiographies are now live on our site, and the remaining autobiographies and histories will be ready for publication by December 1, 2021.These include Wilford’s History of Zion’s Camp and a Notebook he titled Visions and Revelations. These documents have never been transcribed and published before.
The RESEARCH TEAM is led by Hannah Taylor. Hannah was a stellar intern, and the combination of her education in Family History Research and her dedication to accuracy has exponentially increased the effectiveness of our research of both people and places mentioned in Wilford Woodruff’s records. To date we have added 1,402 places and 5,694 individuals. These lists will continue to grow as we transcribe additional documents and proceed through additional decades in Wilford Woodruff’s journals. Hannah has recruited other students from the Family History Department at BYU to assist in research and they are doing superb work.. In addition, our Biographies Team led by Brenda Homer under Hannah’s supervision, has completed 1,287 biographical sketches so far. The identification of and biographical information about these individuals are both critical elements of the context our website provides for Wilford Woodruff’s documents, and they both require an immense effort by dedicated and trained individuals.
Preparation to form a DISCOURSES TEAM that will begin work on March 1, 2022 is being completed by Hailee Kotter and Jennifer Mackley. Anyone interested in being the first to read the newly discovered discourses of Wilford Woodruff, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Wilford Woodruff mentioned giving 3,459 discourses in his journal and we have located 1,300. It will require significant research in ward, stake, and personal records to locate the remaining discourses and then a large team of volunteers to transcribe those documents. The greatest challenge will be transcribing the large number of discourses recorded in Shorthand, and a special team to tackle that unique task.
We have also formed a CONTENT MANAGEMENT TEAM led by Jane Johnson. This team is doing editorial work for the purpose of public outreach. Volunteers are currently reading already transcribed discourses to identify Wilford’s words of wisdom, gospel topics, unique stories, and other inspirational gems for use in articles, podcasts, social media, and curriculum. This content library will also be used to further develop our website by offering readers content that will enhance their understanding of the Gospel and the story of the Restoration.
The next few months and years will be an exciting time of discovery and we hope you will join us in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share new Church history and make it universally accessible.