PROSOPOGRAPHY FOR BEGINNERS
STAGE 2 EXERCISES
Create an Index of Names I - creating the name record
Once all the names in the documents have been marked-up it is now possible to create an Index of Names. At this stage interpretation should be kept to a minimum. The value of this stage of your prosopography is dependent upon the integrity (reliability) of your data. Your all-important first task is simply to create as accurate a record as possible of all the names in the documents. Record every name, regardless of whether or not you believe that the same person is being referred to more than once. The basic rule is that you must record the name exactly as you found it in the source. Do not change the case of the Latin name form, and do not standardize the spelling. You can omit non-name phrases such as 'dei gratia' from the name record.
There are some cases, however, where keeping the names exactly as they appear will lead to unnecessary confusion. In these cases you will have to compromise by introducing some interpretation, controlled by a note of what you have done. For example, Albericus de Ver et Beatrix uxor eius’ /’Alberic de Vere and Beatrice his wife’ contains two-element name records for two separate persons. The first can easily be separated into name and descriptor fields. In the case of his wife the descriptor field should appear as: uxor [Alberici de Ver]/wife [of Alberic de Vere], with the square brackets indicating that you have supplied the meaning of "eius" from the text. In a separate field note the phrase as found in the text, "uxor eius". NB - Square brackets are also used when expanding abbreviated names, something you should avoid doing unless the expanded form is absolutely certain.
Create an Index of Names II - structuring the index
Prosopography is most effective when conducted on a large scale, which will normally be done with the aid of a computer database. Although small projects can be done without the use of a computer, it is quicker and easier to use computers for all projects. Certain basic principles apply to the organization of your data whether or not you are using a database.
It is not possible in the scope of this tutorial to go into detail about issues relating to database design or software options. Familiarity with the principles of a record-and-row relational database has been assumed, though nothing more complex that an Excel spreadsheet is required for the exercises. If you are unfamiliar with the ideas of a "record-and-row relational database", read the essay by Ralph Mathisen in the Guide.
If you are unfamiliar with the ideas of a ‘record-and-row relational database’, read the essay by Ralph Mathisen in the Guide, or visit whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,,sid9_gci934543,00.html
Creating an index of name records from your tagged documents
Your index should be laid out as a table containing recognizable ‘fields’, such as one for ‘(given) name’, and one for each ‘descriptor’. If your work or interests include a strong onomastic element you might consider additional fields, such as ‘descriptor type’. It is important that each entry has an ID field, that is, one that assigns it a unique number which will always distinguish it from any other entry. The combined fields will then form a unique name record. You will also need a field containing a reference to the document from which the name record was taken. Always desirable is a note or memo field in which the reasons for decisions about data entry can be recorded, and any extra information noted. Later you might wish to link your index of person-names to an index of place-names.
Ensure that you record all the name element information you have, giving consideration to the number and type of fields into which you want to enter your data. Include in your index the records for the anonymi, i.e. those that lack a given name or carry no name information at all, such as ‘the priest’. In some cases it may later be possible to assign such records to named persons (there is more on this in David Pelteret’s article for those who have access to the Prosopography Handbook).
For an example of how to go about the name index, study the following, taken from the Chronicle of Abingdon Abbey, written there sometime in the later twelfth century.:
We could enter the name information here into a table like this:
Note the way that we deal with relational descriptors. Because converting a descriptor such as ‘his wife’ involves interpretation, we should make the clear what has been interpreted by enclosing that material in square brackets.
Interpreted material should be distinguished from literal transcriptions by being placed in square brackets, except at the beginning of an entry, as in the above example, since that will impede computer searches. An alternative is to place the information in a note or memo field. The functionality of such fields will depend upon the system used, but it is a good idea to have a note or memo field for all tables so that oddities can be recorded and, most importantly, the reasons behind any decisions that have been made during data entry.
Now create a simple tabular Index of Names for your tagged documents
You have now completed the first part of your prosopography of Colne Charters, the creation of an Index of Names.
©University of Oxford
The compilers were Dr Katharine S. B. Keats-Rohan with the assistance of Dr Olga Borymchuk and Jacquelyn Fernholz.