What did my family go through during the war? You can now find out on Warlives.org: The starting point for research into the personal histories of Dutch WWII eye-witnesses.
The platform reconstructs the lives of almost 300.000 people involved in this war, based on more than 20 different archives and sources. Ranging from Memorial Sites, Death Records and Camp Administrations: all in all over 2.5 million name entries. Some of these sources were already available online, some were not. Launching this website enables the user to search through all datasets in one go while new sources are continually being added. New insights and contexts are created by presenting the combined information of one person together on one page.
The person page
The data about a person’s life is modeled in “events” and presented in a clear timeline. This gives a quick overview of someone’s life and (often tragic) death. For every event you can view the sources that were used for this reconstruction. If available, also the link to the original data is provided.
When events have a geolocation, a map is added to the person page. Especially when information is available about transportations, this map gives an impressive overview.
It may sound simple: aggregate 20 databases and connect all names to reconstruct a personal timeline. But it is not! Some databases are messy, some are incomplete. Some sources contradict each other. For instance: Anne Frank her full name is Annelies Marie Frank. Her birthplace, Frankfurt am Mainz, is spelled in many different ways and since we don’t know her death date this can range from february 1st 1945 to march 31st 1945. How do you train a computer to recognize and reconstruct one life out of 2.5 million name references?
In this Website we transform metadata into Linked Open Data and we use Search Functionalities (specific algorithms used in search engines) to predict the probability of a match. We compare names, dates and places and we determine variations between different sources.
If one source is incomplete or incorrect, we have other sources to fill in the gaps or correct mistakes.
For this project search-functionality is key. This is why the portal provides both an advanced search and a free-search where you can search on name, date, location or even a combination of those.
War Lives is an initiative by the Dutch Network of War Collections (NOB) in cooperation with a number of institutions that have made their data available.