Quantitative Data: Examples of Data Structures

3. Complex Data

3.2 Prosopographical Data

Prosopography is the study of groups through collective study of their members. This requires biographical data for large numbers of individuals, but the information available for many individuals may be quite limited, and consist of scattered references in different documents that need to be connected together and recorded in databases that can facilitate investigation of larger patterns.

One example of this type of work is briefly discussed below by Dr Richard Gorski, who developed a prosopographical database for his PhD thesis back in 1999. The thesis looked at the fourteenth-century sheriff in English local administration during the late middle ages.  

This thesis can be accessed at the University of Hull Hydra data repository here.

For a second example, the diagram below shows the data model of the Individuals module of the Early American Foreign Service Database (EAFSD). This module (or section) of the relational database "models how people relate to each other and their various occupations".

There are several related tables in this module (linked using the "id" primary key): basic information about individuals, occupations, occupation titles, occupation types, relationships (between individuals) and relationship types. The diagram also shows how this module links to others in the database - residences, locations, assignments, correspondence, organizations and references.

It is worth noting the use of easily interpreted descriptive labels (eg name, birth_date) for the tables, and the incorporation of basic administrative metadata (eg created_at) within the tables - it is likely that the timestamps are automatically updated when entries are created or edited.