I wanted to highlight some of my favorite web reference tools as of late with a short post. Among the many, here are a few of my go-to tools when researching all things Mormon:
Latter-day Apostles (http://latterdayapostles.org/)
This tool provides a fun way to visually browse the organization of the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1835 (with the formation of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles) to the present. It’s mostly a quick reference point for me with a question like, “Who was in the quorum in 1901?” The developer of the site, Dallin Regehr, doesn’t provide citation of his data, but I’ll assume it’s fairly accurate after checking the datum for a few people against other sources.
There are two way to display the data:
A card view:
Or a list view:
Each provide a nice overview with reference points such as years since the church was organized and the estimated membership numbers for each year (maybe from the Church Almanac?). There is a scrubber at the top of the site which allows you to move between months and years as well as a play button so you can be mesmerized by the deaths and additions to the quorums.
You can also search for a particular apostle:
Dallin Regehr, the developer, also makes this note about the site:
The author makes no guarantee about the accuracy of the data provided by this site. It is intended for fun and curiosity, not life-or-death research.
Google’s Ngram Viewer (http://books.google.com/ngrams)
Google’s Ngram Viewer is a fabulous tool for digging into the big data of the world’s book corpus. You can easily run comparisons on word usage within the period 1800-2000. For instance here is a comparison between the use of
'Joe Smith' and
'Joseph Smith' between 1800 and 2000 in English:
Hovering your cursor over a particular line will display the year and frequency percentage for that term. Now to dive in a little more into the power of the tool. What about the French corpus with the same query?
You see what happened there? The literature picks up around 1850-1855, which corresponds well with the first missionaries arriving in France in 1849. So cool! How about Spanish? Let’s add ‘José Smith’ to our query to get a full picture:
Hmm… What is going on in Spanish-speaking nations from 1860-1880 that would cause such a spike in Joseph Smith? These are the types of research questions we can come away with from using the Ngram Viewer. I could do this all day, but suffice it to say this is a great tool for analyzing trends in the literature, which of course is not complete since the data is only representative of the books Google has digitized thus far. Anyhow, dig in and have fun!