PROSOPOGRAPHY FOR BEGINNERS
Treatment of Names
Linking Person and Name Records
You are now ready to start creating your Person List.
Create a note or memo field into which you can enter information about the key persons you have identified.Remember that your Person List is a new table linked to your earlier Name List by ID numbers. No information from your Names List table will be lost by the creation of the Person Table, so avoid unnecessary repetition of information. Use your memo field to explain your decisions if necessary, or to record helpful miscellaneous information that does not fit into your main fields.
"Fusion" and "Fission" For key persons such as kings there will not normally be a problem associating name records with person records. Even when kings have the same first name, the names of other persons occurring in their acta will usually distinguish one from another. Things are not so simple for lesser individuals and you might change your mind about some name records more than once. Analysis of the name records will sometimes require the merging of two or more name records into the same person record ("fusion"); sometimes it will require that two name records that have been merged should be separated into records for two distinct persons ("fission"). Never merge records while any doubt remains about identity as this may result in individuals being permanently lost. It is much easier to merge records later on than to recognize and then disentangle merged records.
Always record the reasons (using your note or memo field) why you have identified one or more name record with the same individual, or why you are uncertain whether name records do in fact refer to a sole individual.
You can sort your table alphabetically by first name and by descriptor in order to make your task clearer. A useful first step is to sort by charter number and isolate the names of key persons such as kings and archbishops. This will give you a rough chronological guide when you come to decide whether the "Ranulf" appearing in one charter could be the same as the "Ranulf" appearing in another. The surrounding context will be central to your decision. Do the Ranulfs in each case appear in connection with the same gift to the abbey, or associated with the same people? Look out for variant spellings of the same name (eg."Rannulf", "Randulf").
Now create your Person List. Work in two stages, an interim stage based upon a copy of your Index of Name, and a final stage listing all your persons with a standardized form of their names
When you are ready, compare your work with these versions, [IndexPersonsLatinInterim] or [IndexPersonsEnglishInterim], and then [IndexPersonsLatin] or [IndexPersonEnglish] The first illustrates a stage in the process of nominal record linkage. The second suggests reduces repetition and introduces name standardization. A different system of numbering has been used for the de Vere family. Basic information on the key persons has been included. Sources referred to are JohnLe Neve, Fasti Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ 1066-1300, new edn. Diana Greenaway, and D. Knowles and C. N. L. Brooke, Heads of Religious Houses (Cambridge, 1976)
The group of documents used for these exercises presents a very restricted and compact local community. It is relatively straightforward to see that the names recurring in the documents do indeed relate to the same persons.
The identification of the kings, archbishops and bishops provides a clear chronological starting point. The repetition of the name Alberic in the de Vere line is tricky, but it should not be too difficult to work out the outlines of the de Vere lineage from these charters. There is a noticeable progression up the social scale from Alberic I to his grandson Earl Alberic.
By contrast, you will have noticed the difference in quality of those persons with English names. These people were at the lower end of the social scale.
We may not be able to discover more about the lowliest people as individuals than appears in these charters. Persons of their social station rarely appear in the written record. For those higher up the social scale we may hope to learn more from other documents. For example, we can look at Domesday Book for the holding of the first Alberic de Vere in Essex and other counties. We can compare the Domesday information about the names of people and places associated with Albertic with information in later documents, such as these charters, to see if we can trace continuities or discontinuities. We discover that in the:
"Hundred of Lexden. Alberic de Ver holds [Earls] Colne in lordship, which Wulfwin held as a manor, for 5 hides. Always.villagers; 13 smallholders; 6 slaves. … Of this manor, Demiblanc [Dimidius blancus] holds 1 hide".
This shows that Colne was a hereditary possession of the de Veres, and explains the origins of the place-names Colun Alberici and Colun de Miblanc. Unfortunately, there appears to be no further record of Demiblanc himself. We also discover the ancestors of some of those appearing as Alberic III's principal tenants in the Carta of 1166; e.g. the Adelelm who held Burgate in Suffolk of Alberic I, ancestor of William de Burgatin, or the Everard who held Saxon Street [Sextune] in Cambridgeshire, ancestor of the Everard of 1166. This sort of information can tell us something about the stability of the family and its honour (lands) through a particularly marked period of English history, from the Conquest in 1066 to the reign of Henry II.
From other charters, royal writs and chronicles we might learn more about the careers of the de Veres, their marriage alliances and those of their tenants, which would help to explain the social mobility evident in the de Vere lineage in this period.
The exercises in this tutorial have concentrated on the creation of indexes (stage 2), omitting the preliminary stage 1 which would have been the basis of a real prosopographical research project. Stage 1 includes defining the subject group(s) to be studied and making a preliminary list of the questions to be asked of the assembled data, all to be established on the basis of available source material. Decisions taken at this point will determine the nature of the 'questionnaire' on which the biographical directory (notes attached to the persons in the index of persons) will be compiled, and provide the correlates on which the stage 3 analysis will be based. However, if you master the requirements of stage 2 you will have established whether or not prosopography is for you, shown you are capable of the rigour required for stages 1 and 3, and become more aware of the problems and possibilities of name forms in historical records. Since recorded history is about people and every one has a name, whether or not recorded in full, you will not have wasted your time, even if you decide that prosopography is not for you.
Before leaving this tutorial, take the time for a brief look at a quite different selection of documents, taken from the Lisle Letters, written to and by Arthur Plantagent, Lord Lisle, governor of Calais Castle by appointment of his kinsman Henry VIII. Lord Lisle had the right of appointment to the garrison of Calais and as such found himself constantly importuned by those who sought places there for their own protégés. One of them was Sir Richard Whethill who was determined to secure a place for his son Robert; Lisle was equally determined he should not. Although Lisle's right of appointment meant that he could (and on this occcasion did) defy the king's wishes, defying the wishes of Henry VIII was not undertaken lightly.
Read the extracts below and note the underlined name forms.
There are considerable contrasts with the Colne documents, which relate to a small self-defined group, the family and dependents of the founders of Colne Priory. The documents contain little evidence of personal motivation beyond a concern for soul of self and kin. They indicate clear levels of authority and their jurisdictions - grants are made with consent of the heir, in the case of the lord, then of his king, and also of the bishop and archbishop. The Lisle letters are personal documents, which are revelatory of personal motive and emotion and of conflicting levels of authority in matters of patronage. There issues with name forms are very similar, but there are some striking differences in the way the names are recorded. Where is the earlier documents a reference to the bishop of London, episcopus Londonie, emphasises the office rather than the man who held it, in the Tudor documents writers routinely refer to "Mr Chamberlain" or the "Earl of Winchester", using an office in lieu of a personal name. Hence, the former is an anonymous, though he will be identifiable if the document is datable; the latter merely lack the (to us) conventional first and second name, both of which should be easy to discover from other Letters or sources. Whatever the date of the sources in which you are interested, it as well to remember that names were recorded according to the needs and conventions of the writer, not of the persons designated by the names.
©University of Oxford
The compilers were Dr Katharine S. B. Keats-Rohan with the assistance of Dr Olga Borymchuk and Jacquelyn Fernholz.