The purpose of the Jonestown Research section on this site is to give a clearer picture of Jonestown’s people, structure, and activities. To that end, major additions have been made in 2008. They come from materials collected by the FBI in the US and Guyana and released under the FOIA.
Each person in Peoples Temple has her or his own story. No single story gives a complete account of it. In 1978 there was a rush to minimize and dismiss everything about PT as trivial, weird, crazy and forgettable. As more stories are found and remembered, the account becomes more complete. Most important, as more is told about what people were trying to do, the dignity deserved by all who were there is finally emerging.
Part of my own reconnection to other Temple survivors has been to work with this website as it chronicles what happened and, more poignantly, presents writings by people sharing their thoughts and reactions. I wrote about some of my own experiences, helped transcribe tapes and have searched through the 49,500+ pages released by the FBI.
My work in this section is selfish: I want to know more about what was happening in Guyana – the good and the bad. We should remember what people were building. We should remember the goodness, hopes and beliefs of Temple members. That’s what I hope you’ll find in the results of this research.
Updated areas include:
- Jonestown Censuses: Names and AKAs (Also Known As names) have been updated about the people there and their residences, reflecting the same names now listed in the Who Died and Who Survived sections.
- The Opposition: This sections focuses on people critical of Peoples Temple including materials about and from “Concerned Relatives” group. This also includes a chart of some Peoples Temple members who went to and left Guyana before November 1978.
- Jonestown Organization: With the move of more than 950 people from urban US to the jungles of Guyana, the Temple had to adapt and organize itself to meet the needs of living in a new environment. From late 1977 to November 1978, an organization of some ten departments of responsibility emerged as described from records (lists, narratives, notes, letters, and more) found in the FOIA materials. Each department includes an inventory of jobs being done and who was doing, although we expect to find more information for this section in the coming year.
- Edith Roller Journals: The April 1978 Journal assembled from Edith Roller’s handwritten notes is now posted, completing all that we currently have found of her 1978 journals written in Jonestown. If the July, September, October and November 1978 journals are ever found, they will be transcribed and put online as well. Work is beginning on the years prior to 1978 (most of 1976 and some of 1977). They will be placed online as finished.
- Site Map of Jonestown Research: This outline of all parts of the Jonestown Research section includes active links to all .pdf files and charts.
The areas – Maps, Jonestown Demographics, Peoples Temple Addresses in the US – are unchanged. Peoples Temple Timelines is still in development.
(Don Beck is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His other articles in this report are Notes on .pdf Files Available Online and Continuing On. His complete set of writings for this site may be found here.)