I started the Brandywine Soldiers Project many years ago when I was working at the Brandywine Battlefield. I lost track of how many times visitors would ask whether we had a list of soldiers who fought at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. Unfortunately, no such list existed. To me it seemed like a great idea to start keeping track of the names of ancestors people told us about and to compile this information into one large list and make it available to the public via the Internet.
Full of enthusiasm, I designed a Microsoft Access database and started filling in fields. I then set up a website and exported my data from Access into html files. The result was functional but not very attractive or easy to use. I set about searching for a new way to present the data. After a few years, I discovered MediaWiki. This is a collaborative software package that is web-based and seemed like just the ticket for the Brandywine Soldiers. I installed it and posted one soldier to the site. Then I got busy with life and didn’t get back to it for several years. In that time, not one person added anything to the Wiki. And I couldn’t really blame them! It wasn’t the easiest thing to use.
Finally, I decided to install WordPress and to customize the interface in a way that would make it easy to find soldiers and to navigate the site. There is still room for improvement but I think this version of the site will be easy to keep up and will allow visitors to comment on soldiers and make connections.
– Karen Furst