Probate Inventories in Rural Research

Date:         Wed, 23 Feb 1994 11:40:33 -0600                                   
Reply-To:     H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion                   
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              <H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET>                                            
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Hello from Burkard Poettler                                   

Burkhard Poettler writes...

Another topic I'm dealing with is the analysis of probate inventories--mainly from the 18th century--as a source for the history of everyday life in rural areas, focussed especially on dwelling culture and agricultural tools and implements. Fortunately, recent database technologies allow an adequate input of highly structured sources and support therefore the combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. In addition to the interpretation and analysis of the contents of probate inventories these new techniques could be a good tool for the exploration of source critical aspects, by comparing the orthography and the inner structure of the inventories, for instance.

Burkhard,

This sounds like very interesting work. For the past two decades, economic and social historians working in the U.S. have made extensive use of probate inventories, initially for the study of wealth distribution, but later for other purposes. I would like to hear more about the new quantitative (and qualitative) methods for analyzing probate inventories in the 18th century.

--Jim Oberly, H-Rural Moderator




Date:         Sun, 27 Feb 1994 22:23:44 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Probate Inventories <was RE:  Hello from Burkhard                 

Poettler>

[From: IN%"poettler@bkfug.kfunigraz.ac.at" "BURKHARD POETTLER" 27-FEB-1994 11:32:18.56 [To: IN%"joberly@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU" [Subj: probate inventories

Jim,

the approach to probate inventories (pi) as made by social and economic historians is--as far as I know--more or less a quantitative one. This is the case in Europa and probably also in the states. But I have to confess that I do know the American literature on pi only in parts (and would be very grateful for hints).

As a consequence of this quantitative approach data input (mostly) is made in a coded form or at least the terms used in the pi are categorized at the stage of inputting data. So you have to make a lot of decisions at the begin of your research that better would be done at an later stage, when you have a better knowledge of your material.

The alternative is, to record the pi (nearly) as they are to maintain the structure of the source as well as the original orthography of the terms mentioned. (English orthography didn't change as much as German did and so the problem of orthography could be more relevant in the German speaking world.) This source-oriented approach allows to make and revise coding decisions my means of a thesaurus at a stage more suitable for doing this than the begin of a project. You can develop your systematical categories on the basis of your data and do not have to press the data into the categories.

An aspect that is probably more important for an ethnologist than for an economic or social historian is that the pi being maintained as individual sources allow an hermeneutical access to single or several related inventories. An ideal case would be to analyse the changes of a certain family/estate... over a longer period thus tracing the 'career' of certain goods and so on.

I hope this can give some idea of my approach to this problem and I would appreciate your critics and/or hints very much.

Burkhard Poettler





Date:         Mon, 28 Feb 1994 12:45:52 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: probate inventories                                           

[From: IN%"R0529%VMCMS.CSUOHIO.EDU@UICVM.UIC.EDU" 28-FEB-1994 09:28:06.66 [To: IN%"h-rural@uicvm.uic.edu" [Subj: Probate Inventories

I have never worked with pi, but I understand that the following reference is of great use to people who want to know more. I am sure Burkhard Poettler is familiar with it, but because it was published originally in the Netherlands it is less well known here: Ad van der Woude and Anton Schuurman (eds.), Probate Inventories.

A new source for the historical study of wealth, material culture and agricultural development. Papers presented at the Leeuwenborch Conference (Wageningen, 507 May 1980) (HES Publishers, Po.O. Box 129, 3500 AC Utrecht, the Netherlands 1980. For the U.S.A. John Benjamins, North America Inc., Mr. Paul Peranpeau, One Button Wood Square 202, Philadelphia PA 19130 USA ISBN 90 6194 093 1).

Joyce Mastboom Cleveland State Univ.


=


Date:         Wed, 2 Mar 1994 21:37:23 -0600                                    
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              <H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET>                                            
From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Probate Inventories <was RE:  Hello from                      

Burkhard Poettler>

[From: IN%"jbrown%umn.edu@UICVM.UIC.EDU" "Jim Brown" 2-MAR-1994 20:50:24.06 [To: IN%"H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET" "H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion list" [Subj: RE: Probate Inventories <was RE: Hello from Burkhard Poettler>

Just a word about data entry: there is a program called Kleio that was, and is still being, developed by Manfred Thaller at Goettingen that is supposed to make the entry especially of incomplete data much easier, while at the same time preserving all of the original variety of the data. I have worked with colleagues in Austria, where Thaller did some of the early development, who have used the program and they found it valuable, though in its earlier versions, somewhat difficult to master. The latest version is 5.1.1 and is an English-language version. There was a post on H-Urban some time ago which I saved and which described the program and gave information on where to order it, which I will send as a separate post.

Jim Brown Department of History University of Minnesota jbrown@atlas.socsci.umn.edu



Date:         Tue, 15 Mar 1994 22:08:34 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Record linkage (continues RE:  Probate Inventories)               

H-Rural subscribers--

I thought you might be interested in the appended discussion of computerized record linkage techniques; it follows nicely on our earlier discussion of the quantitative and qualitative analysis of probate inventories.

--Jim Oberly, H-Rural Moderator


If you are interested in record linkage, you might be interested in a workshop being held at the University of Liverpoll on 21-22 March (!), entitled "Historical Demography and the Computer-Aided Reconstruction of Communities". It is very late in the day, but it still might be possible to attend. Contact Pat Hudson, Dept of Economic and Social History, 11 Abercromby Square, P.O. Box 147, Liverpool, L69 3BX, for details. Dr Hudson may be on leave at present, but if she is out of the department you may be able to get details from the departmental office.

You may also be interested in attending the Association for History and Computing conference in Hull, 12-14 April, although this is not directly about record linkage. I'll send you details in a moment.

Kleio is not itself record linkage software although it does provide record linkage tools, such as Soundex. What sets Kleio apart is that it is an information management tool specifically developed for the kinds of ambigious fuzzy data which historians must work with. It enables data to be kept in a format as close as possible to the original and then provides querying tools which enable some sense to be made of such complex data.

There are, however, other tools around specifically developed for record linkage, although many are not in the public domain. One of the few that is in the public domain is Matchmaker, developed by Jeremy Atack of Vanderbuilt University. Two that are not are CARL, developed by Stephen Baskerville (Hull University, American Studies) and Peter Adman (Hull, Computing Service) and the suite of programs written by Ros Davies of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure.

There's quite a literature in automated, semi-automated, or computer--aided record linkage. Much of this (but not all) concentrates on family reconstitution, which is the most difficult problem. In case you are not familiar with this literature already, I include a very small number of recent references to get you started:

Jeremy Atack et al, "Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match", Historical Methods 25 no 2 (Spring 1992), 53-66 (and articles by Bouchard and Schofield in the same issue)

Ian Winchester, "What Every Historian Needs to Know About Record Linkage for the Microcomputer Era", Historical Methods 24 no 4 (Fall1992), 149-65.

"Special Issue: Record Linkage", History and Computing 4 no 1 (1992), including articles by Adman/Baskerville/Beedham, Davies, King, and Vetter/Gonzalez/Gutmann

Arno Kitts et al, The Reconstitution of Viana do Castelo (Association for History and Computing, 1990).

We can supply a copy of the Matchmaker software if you wish to try it out.

Please let me know if you would like further details. To get a copy of the software guide historians, send a cheque for 6 pounds (payable to the University of Glasgow) to CTICH, 1 University Gardens, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ.

Best wishes, Donald Spaeth

 
Dr Donald A Spaeth                         CTICH                                
Deputy Director                            1 University Gardens                 
                                           University of Glasgow                
CTI Centre for History                     Glasgow G12 8QQ                      
with Archaeology and Art History           United Kingdom                       
                                                                                
CTICH:    ctich@glasgow.ac.uk              Tel. 041 330 4942                    
Personal: dspaeth@dish.gla.ac.uk           Fax. 041 330 4942                    

One of 20 Computers in Teaching Initiative subject centres working to encourage the use of computers to improve teaching.

 



Date:         Sun, 20 Mar 1994 21:40:02 -0600                                   
Reply-To:     H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion                   
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              <H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET>                                            
From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Database Programs <was RE:  Probate Inventories>                  

[From: IN%"jbrown%atlas.socsci.umn.edu@UICVM.UIC.EDU" "Jim Brown" 20-MAR-1994 15:30:26.99 [To: IN%"H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET" "H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion list" [Subj: database programs

The recent discussion of probate inventories and record linkage reminded me that sometime in the future I will be entering textual data from wills and marriage contracts and that I have yet to decide on a database program. In former projects I have used a DOS editor to create a template for entering data which was then read into SPSS. For the contracts and wills, however, I will be entering short numerical entries as well as longer textual entries. As I understand it, the problem with programs like FoxPro and Paradox is that there are field limits of 255 or 256 characters. This would not work well for the longer fields that I have in mind. What experiences have others had with data entry and database programs?

Jim Brown jbrown@atlas.socsci.umn.edu Department of History (612)624-5818 University of Minnesota



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Posted: 8 Jul 1994

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